It must be difficult to be Yuna, for the sheer diversity in her fanbase makes her job an uphill task.

Besides her fans in the indie music market courted due to the success of her first self-titled US album, she has to appease new fans who are just getting into her newer pop sensibilities with Nocturnal and Sixth Street, her music efforts with Verve Records. She also has Malaysia on her shoulders, after first impacting local radio with a selection of jazzier Malay songs as well as pounding the gig circuit and developing her sound along the way.

With all this expectation, Yuna clearly set the tone for her one-night-only concert last Monday at the Esplanade Concert Hall by firstly performing two downtempo songs — Coffee from her first EP and Falling from Nocturnal (she released a music video for the latter a few days before her Singapore concert). Amid a stage set-up stripped bare of fancy decor, the only prop adorning the stage was a big board hung at the backdrop with Yuna’s name in italicised serif. There were no wing curtains to hide Yuna for her to compose herself. She opened her own wing door, sauntered into centerstage, took her seat and started singing.

It’s a refreshing scene for fans in South-East Asia who probably know Yuna during her career’s infancy: the soft-spoken chick who never really let go of her guitar. While it is definitely great that Yuna is exploring more as an artiste, the intimate setting was perfect for this year’s Yuna to get in touch with her former self. It can be very difficult to sing a song written a few years back and relate to emotions and thoughts that have probably faded away, but when Yuna dove straight into Gadis Semasa off her first Malay full-length album, she sounded as connected and current as she would ever be.

The concert was peppered with many screams of affection from the 1400-strong audience. Plenty of “I love you”s were replied with courteous “thank you”s and “best friend forever” declarations by Yuna. One may question her sincerity but when faced with her arresting grin and shy demeanour, one cannot help but coo along as well. The songstress didn’t really talk much in between songs, which may partly be due to her still-as-shy self. Either way, we’re here for the songs. We can go to YouTube to hear her muse on life.

After a stunning performance of current mid-tempo tracks Lights & Camera and I Wanna Go, Yuna made the wise decision to tackle a series of Malay songs for the audience, of which a significant portion was clad in the headscarf. This being her first stop in the Nocturnal tour outside of the States, it made sense to push crowd favourites such as Terukir Di Bintang and Dan Sebenarnya, which audience members gladly sang along to.

After ending her first set with the rousing Live Your Life, Yuna started off her second set with tracks Deeper Conversation and Decorate. Just when we began to see a few heads nodding off, the songstress took her cues and delivered powerful renditions of current album tracks I Want You Back and Mountains. We definitely want the latter to be her next single — it would definitely win some of those indie fans back after her switch to a more pop sound.

Of course, a performance wouldn’t be complete without an artiste attempting a cover and we were definitely glad when Yuna performed a stellar cover of Frank Ocean’s Thinkin’ Bout You which sounded almost identical to the much-loved version we saw her doing on YouTube. A standing ovation followed after Yuna wrapped up the concert with Escape and Penakut, but not without a chorus of “Encore!” and “Rescue!” from the crowd.

Looks like this audience was more than ready to accept Yuna’s newer sound.

So, Yuna gladly came back with a rendition of Lelaki before asking the crowd to get up on their feet and dance to Rescue. The crowd enthusiastically obliged and grooved along.

That’s the beauty of pop: no matter what your sound, there is that one track that will definitely have everyone dancing along. Capturing a Yuna on the rise is great, but freeing oneself from placing an artiste in a box is better. No labels, just good music will do, thank you.

Photos: Universal Music Singapore

Yuna’s current album Nocturnal is out now. Popspoken is proud to be the official online media for Yuna ‘Nocturnal’ Live In Singapore.