BY VICTORIA BARKER
FLAMBOYANT female dancers draped in neon feather boas - seven of them in total - strut their stuff on stage to pulsating dance beats laced with Chinese lyrics.
Crowds of whisky- and brandy- drinking, boisterous party animals clink glasses. Mandopop fever permeates the air.
Then, veteran Mandopop performer William Scorpion shows up in all his bare-chested glory to serenade his adoring audience, and the crowd goes wild.
That's the kind of scene you can expect at Clarke Quay's new kid on the block, Shanghai Dolly, the latest venture of nightclub operator St James Holdings.
The club, which held its soft launch last Wednesday and will officially open next Monday, is the second club wholly devoted to the genre in the nightlife haven of Clarke Quay.
The 1,600 sq m Mandopop superclub is part of St James' $1-million revamp, which also includes the reinstatement of swing and jazz bar The Bellini Room at its St James Power Station premises in HarbourFront.
It takes over the premises of nostalgia- themed The Bellini Grande after its 14-month run, which ended last month.
Boasting almost 50 entertainers - singers, dancers and deejays - from countries like Hong Kong, China and Singapore, the sprawling, upscale club may be set to dominate the Mandopop club scene here.
Said Mr Andrew Ing, chief operating officer of St James Holdings: "We are the only outlet that offers up to almost 50 artistes in a single venue for live performances, which also has a restaurant catering to the dinner and supper crowd."
Scorpion, 48, and his four-piece band, Queen, will be the main draw in terms of entertainment. They formerly played at Dragonfly at St James Power Station.
Meanwhile, Dragonfly - which typically sees up to 10,000 patrons each week - will remain largely unchanged, with its concert-style setting and shows. Another Mandopop band, Typhoon, will take over as headliner there.
MANDOPOP IN HIGH DEMAND
But, does the opening of Shanghai Dolly herald tough competition for LifeBrandz-run Mandopop outlet Lunar Asian Fusion Bar, which opened in late 2007?
If LifeBrandz chief executive, Mr Bernard Lim, is worried, he's not saying. He told my paper that he is confident that there's enough room for both in the area.
"The two clubs have their own unique positions and the live entertainment and bands will have their own followings.
I'm sure this will attract even more crowds to Clarke Quay for Mandopop clubbing," he said.
Still, Lunar, famous for its bar-top dancers, will be "looking at rolling out new content and entertainment line-ups over the next few months", he said.
Mr Ing agrees with Mr Lim, saying: "Our experience has shown that there is a huge market for Mandopop entertainment in Singapore. Clarke Quay is a perfect catchment area for party-goers with its varied offerings that create a high volume of human traffic."
Good news for the clubs - Mandopop in Singapore is in high demand. Home-grown label Rock Records has almost 30 artistes, including Malaysian-born singer Fish Leong and Taiwanese band Mayday, in its stable.
Its managing director, Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, told my paper that "the market demand for Chinese acts is definitely high", and is at least comparable to that of English acts.
A spokesman for Singapore concert promoter Unusual Entertainment, which was set up in 1997 and which specialises in Chinese acts, said that concert attendances for such shows have been consistent.
"We usually have a turn-out of about 80 to 90 per cent and we expect the market to get even more vibrant (in the coming year)," the spokesman said.
Besides being behind the Singapore leg of Taiwanese superstar A* Mei's world tour next January, Unusual also hinted that Mandopop fans can expect gigs by performers like Jam Hsiao, S.H.E and Lee Min Ho next year.
All this is music to the ears of music lovers and club-hoppers.
Dragonfly regular Germaine Yeo, 26, who works in advertising sales, is looking forward to taking in the new-and-improved Clarke Quay Mandopop scene.
She said: "With two clubs in the same area, it will be interesting to see what each has to offer.
It's great news for people who love Chinese music and the atmosphere of such places."
Visit Shanghai Dolly at Blk 3B, The Foundry, Clarke Quay, #01-01. Lunar Asian Fusion Bar is located at Blk 3C, The Cannery, Clarke Quay, #01-03.
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