MTV World Stage 2013: A Red Hot Male Affair

Guy power was the order of the day at the MTV World Stage 2013 shindig which was held this past Sunday at Surf Beach in Sunway Lagoon, Kuala Lumpur. This year’s international line-up of 4 male acts featured the likes of local rapper Joe Flizzow, K-Pop band EXO, hip hop and dance crew Far East Movement and R&B singer Robin Thicke, resulting in a medley of diverse musical styles and offerings. Thanks to MTV Asia, Bandwagon got to attend our very first World Stage, adding another feather to our festival cap! We were pretty jazzed about it - this being an MTV event you know it’s going to have top notch production quality with fantastic sound and visuals – all the ingredients for an awesome concert experience. But don’t just take my word for it – read on to find out what went down at Asia’s biggest annual televised music event!

They came, they sang and they conquered - with acts this red hot, not even the dark clouds and rain could dampen the spirits of the 15, 000-strong crowd, many of whom had been queuing since morning. Kicking off the show was Malaysian rapper Joe Flizzow representing the home front. He performed five songs including ‘Iller Iller’, ‘Untukmu’ and ‘All Around My World’ and was joined by SonaOne and Altimet on ‘Havoc’. Joe’s spirited performance got the crowd sufficiently warmed up and he proved a solid opening act for an event of this magnitude. He certainly did Malaysia proud!

Immediately after Joe Flizzow’s set the crowd surged forward, no doubt anticipating EXO’s performance which also marked their first appearance as a group in Malaysia and on MTV. The screams of thousands of fangirls pierced the air and for a moment I thought I’d gone deaf. The K-pop craze has taken the world by storm in the past several years and unless you’ve been living under a rock you’d have heard of groups like Big Bang, Super Junior and Girls’ Generation. I must confess I’m no K-pop fan and have remained immune to its charms, looking on in faint bemusement and unable to differentiate one sparkly act from another. I’ve never been enamoured of the concept as it’s really more about image than anything else - pretty boys and sweet young things packaged in all their high-shine glossiness looking like they were manufactured in the same factory, but I understand their appeal. People are visual creatures who want to be entertained and EXO’s set was nothing if not entertaining.

The ads that were playing on the giant screens on either side of the stage stopped and there was a loud bang, followed by smoke which cleared to reveal the band performing an opening dance routine amidst flashing lights and accompanying music. The mere sight of them was enough to whip the crowd into a frenzy and the screaming which was already at fever pitch grew even louder. They launched into ‘Wolf’, and all I could hear were more screams which nearly drowned out the music at times and led me to fear for my ear drums. Never underestimate the bottomless lung power of K-pop fans! Ironically EXO’s set which was probably the most anticipated was also the shortest; they performed a mere 4 songs before exiting the stage. The sight of 12 boys looking like jailbait in their matching school blazers and ties singing and dancing in synchronicity was disconcerting to say the least, but as their set progressed I found myself bopping along and even, dare I say it, enjoyed myself. I’m still not a K-pop convert, but their choreographed dance moves set to catchy hip hop-infused pop songs like ‘History’ and ‘365’ were enjoyable enough. However their performance seemed too polished and perfect – their vocals sounded way too pristine and in pitch despite all that dancing and prancing around. I had a niggling suspicion that not all of their singing was live. They ended their 25 minute performance with ‘Growl’ which was topped off with a shower of confetti.

While we waited in between sets, MTV VJs Hanli and Alan engaged in friendly competitive banter, chucked tshirts into the crowd and encouraged everyone to crash the Instagram servers with selfies. The trailer for Catfish also played during breaks – it looks messed up. Far East Movement was the act I was looking forward to the most and they killed it. Opening with ‘Ain’t No Coming Down x Wild Things’, they worked the stage like consummate professionals and brought the house down with their thumping beats and club-friendly party anthems. The Los Angeles quartet was here to show us how to have a good time and man did they bring the party! Dressed in matching red overalls in a nod to their idols the Beastie Boys, they played a gargantuan 12 song set that got the crowd grooving and singing along to hits like ‘Like A G6’, ‘The Illest’, a Beastie Boys tribute mashup, ‘If I Was You (OMG)’ and ‘Change Your Life’. We were also treated to a huge crowd-surfing rubber duckie during a rousing rendition of ‘Rocketeer’. The energy level throughout their set was through the roof and the atmosphere was electrifying, with everyone singing along in unison. When Prohgress instructs you to get low, you do as he says. He later jumped into the crowd, riding the waves of ecstatic fans. By the time Far East Movement ended with ‘Turn Up The Love’, everyone was still feeling the adrenaline rush. Theirs was hands down the best set of the night.

After that crazy high, it was going to be tough to top the heady euphoria and Robin Thicke had his work cut out for him. I overhead the guy in front of me say to his friend this line that summed up his set: “Robin Thicke only has one song.” Compared to the sizzling performances by EXO and Far East Movement, Robin’s headlining set unfortunately came across as anti-climatic and uninspired, plagued by a technical hiccup at the start and a set list that comprised mostly ballads. I couldn’t help feeling that his brand of soulful R&B seemed out of place at a glitzy outdoor event like World Stage which calls for acts with more oomph and punch. The static crowd eventually perked up during ‘Blurred Lines’ but even then it was a tame rendition and he struggled to hold the attention of the audience. Concert gripes aside and to his credit, Robin delivered songs such as ‘Give It 2 U’, ‘Feel Good’ and the emotional ‘Dreamworld’ in his trademark soulful manner. Finally the concert came to close with a dazzling display of fireworks, which are always welcome in my book.

Definitely one to remember for weeks, this has been a swell occasion. Many thanks to MTV Asia for the coverage opportunity and kudos for pulling off another successful World Stage. Here’s to a bigger and better show next year!