From the age of Pengemis Cinta (1989), Ella‘s musical distinction stands unmatched in its personality and ability to adapt to her impressive vocal range in a plethora of different genres. 12 studio albums later, she’s still got it.
This performance was held on the 1st of December, 8 PM at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas
Long live Ella!
For those who don’t know her, Ella’s foray into the industry began as the lead singer for rock band, Ella & The Boys,
before embarking on a solo career in 1989. Her music and appeal transcends ages; she remains the longest-standing Malaysian female rock star (who else can you name that still lives on from the age of rock kapak?).
One of the highlights of her golden career is when she was handpicked to sing the official song for the 16th Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur- Standing in the Eyes of the World” in 1998, and made it one of our the best patriotic anthems that Malaysia has ever had.
In 2001, the Malaysia Book of Records listed her as the First Artist to Record a Full Album in the USA and the First Artist with the Highest Number of Sold Albums, a record that still stands today.
2017 has been an exceptionally special year for her as she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian, the Most Recognised Brand in Leading Performance Artiste of the Year at the ASEAN Outstanding Business Award, and the Anugerah Khas Planet Muzik.
Humility and grace
Ella struts onto the stage in an aesthetically pleasing over-sized pantsuit with confidence and style, and behind her are her band members and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, all setting the mood for what’s to come for the grand night ahead. As great of a singer she is, Ella maintains her charming humility- No diva antics can match up to her interactions with the audience, always thanking her fans and making the orchestral hall come bursting life as if it was a giant karaoke room.
Actually, lively would be an understatement. Although the energy of the venue took a while to gain momentum, when it did almost everyone would sing a long to classics like Sembilu, Layar Impian and of course, Standing in the Eyes of the World.
Initial snags did not shake Ella in any significant way, and she carries through her pop-ballad symphony with such gusto as to virtually casting a shadow over the ensemble in the background- her rock-n-roll days showing through her ever-classic stage presence.
It was a battle for presence indeed, because the orchestra versions of her songs were all deftly arranged by Ahmad Che Muriz Rose which, too, was played to perfection by amazing pianists, guitarists, bassists and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra as a whole. Every word sang by Ella is given its own gravitas by the string section, like when the harp inserts itself into your consciousness – gradually introducing a song so familiar, yet so different and fresh such as the powerful rendition of Bayangan.
The two highlights of the night for us were Permata Pemotong Permata, a rock anthem of resilience made stronger with elevated strings, transforming itself into a grand motivational piece, and Puteri Kota. With the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the song reaches a new level of theatrics, where the sounds of the instruments reflect an urban ambience that makes the ‘girl-living-in-a-city’ theme manifest in such a full way. Although it wasn’t a song with the liveliest reception from the audience, we were in awe at the majesty of the composition.
Truth be told, even if you’re not one of those crazy Ella fans who’s been with her since day one, there’s a lot to appreciate from the performance. It was enough to convince our philistine self, lacking in our knowledge of Ella, to go through her entire discography – all while wishing we could go back to the past to see the artist in all her glory. However, the night was the closest we can ever get to an epic 90’s rock ‘n’ roll time machine and it was absolutely an honor to witness Ella in flesh!