Dressed in a sparkling red tuxedo complete with top hat, Jacky Cheung stood alone, high above everyone on the massive, magnificently lit stage, looking every bit like the Heavenly King surveying his adoring masses.
For me, this was the moment that most perfectly encapsulated Cheung's legendary status in the world of Chinese pop music. In a career spanning almost three decades, the 50-year-old "God of Songs" has been one of the most celebrated superstars in the history of Cantopop, thanks to the sheer quality of his voice. He has rubbed shoulders with the likes of the late Leslie Cheung and Alan Tam in the earlier part of his career and held his own against a barrage of younger, better-looking artistes in his later years. If they ever start a Cantopop Hall Of Fame, Cheung's name would be one of the first inducted into it.
Last December, he had played four consecutive shows here despite feeling under the weather. Feeling bad about not performing at his best then, he promised to return when he was back in peak form.
Cheung fulfilled that promise in spectacular fashion last Saturday, mesmerising a sell-out 20,000 strong crowd at Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, with a show that was even grander than the last ones. Organised by UnUsUaL Productions, the stage set-up for the Jacky Cheung 1/2 Century Tour - Malaysia show was definitely more impressive than the one at his previous series of four sold-out shows at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
This time, Cheung engaged the help of renowned stage designer Zhou Bing Kun, who was also responsible for the Beijing Olympics 2008. Zhou's design went beyond the restrictions of traditional stage, as the massive LED screen-cum-stage was split, raised and even rotated almost 360? at times to accommodate the show's different sets.
By all accounts, the concert was largely the same as the previous four, except that the stage was much, much bigger this time around. However, this being the final overseas leg of his long-running world tour, the superstar decided to give us extra buck for our money, singing non-stop for almost four hours.
The show started out with a sort of love story musical, complete with a music video directed by Andrew Lau and starring Shu Qi, which told the story of a playboy who falls in love, and the couple's journey through love's ups and downs. With songs like Nei Dek Ming Zi Ngo Dek Seng Si (Your Name, My Surname) and Nei Si Ngo Gam Sam Wai Yat Chuen Kei (You Are My Life's Only Legend) sound-tracking the musical, it was a wonderfully poignant start to the show.
What surprised me most was he didn't start off with the easy hits, digging up some of the less obvious choices in his long, long list of past hits. Among these were three of my favourite Cheung songs of all time - slow-burning rocker Dong Ngoi Bin Seng Chap Guan (When Love Becomes A Habit) from his Legend Of The Hungry Wolf album, tragic tear-jerker Yiu Yun Dek Ta (She Is Far Away) and Lei Heung Lan, a sad, beautiful ballad that was carried solely by Cheung's emotional, almost heart-breaking voice.
There were some odd moments in the set though, such as the decision to remix the ballad Wen Bie (Kiss Goodbye) into a rock number; and the "Private Corner" segment where he performed jazz-tinged numbers on a smaller stage with just a piano and a cello. For the most part, however, Cheung delivered what the fans came for in spades, especially during the latter half of the concert, which was practically a mass karaoke session.
Almost every hit he has ever had throughout his almost three decade-long career was wheeled out (with the exception of those from his Snow Wolf Lake musical, which he omitted for some reason) - from fast numbers like Zhe Gor Dong Tin Bat Tai Leng (This Winter Is Not Too Cold) and Ngo Long Chuen Suet (Legend Of The Hungry Wolf), all the way to his massive hits Mui Tin Ngoi Lei Do Yat Seh (Everyday I Love You A Little Bit More), Wan Si Kok Dak Lei Jui Hou (I Still Think You Are The Best) and Zi Xiong Yat Sang Kan Lei Zao (Only Want To Go Away With You Forever).
Clocking in at almost four hours and with 41 songs in total, this was the Jacky Cheung concert I had always dreamed of. It had everything - Cheung's trademark magnificent vocals and charismatic banter, a jaw-dropping stage setup that was almost like a living, breathing extension of Cheung's superstar qualities, well-choreographed segments, and most of all, lots and lots of his greatest hits ever. Perhaps, the only disappointment was that it didn't go on longer.
Thank you for coming back, Jacky. You sir, are a true legend indeed, and this humble writer salutes you.