Review: William Singe and Alex Aiono at The Vogue Theatre
After an extended segment by two obnoxious hype men, The Vogue Theatre exploded with pulsating strobes, flashing iPhones, and the entrance of Forestville, Australian indie heartthrob William Singe. The 24-year-old crooner busted out onstage, greeted by a collective scream, overshadowing the good first minute of his opening number “I Don’t Wanna Know”, a cover of the Mario Winans tune. Over the course of the next hour plus, Singe would take his crowd down memory lane of the biggest, sultriest R&B and pop tunes released in the past 20-ish years. Singe, an artist boasting a creamy, smooth voice and an immense amount of charisma, has one thing lacking in his performance though: original tunes.
Most of the set featured a series of contemporary covers, ranging from ZAYN’s “Pillowtalk” to Rihanna’s “Work” to Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex”. Singe’s original material was peppered throughout, and when it appeared it shone bright. It makes sense that an artist whose beginnings came from an X Factor Australia boy band (The Collective) would go on to become a YouTube cover star. And his sexy, slique versions of well-loved tracks like R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” were fun, exciting, and smooth as hell, but I wanted to hear a bit more of Singe the creator instead of Singe the cover artist. That said, it was fun to hear him get entrenched in deep beats on a cover of The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” and turn Calvin Harris and Disciples’ “How Deep Is Your Love” into a stripped down love song.
That aside, his approach to a live performance is certainly well constructed and considered. Flanked by a pair of musicians spinning beats and dropping the bass, Singe was left front and center, perched behind a microphone to croon on ballads, and dart back and forth on the stage, giving face time to fans who showed up hours early to snag front row access.
Several moments in his set, Singe shone brightly. Single “Rush” combines ’90s one-hit-wonder “Crush” by Jennifer Paige into a new millennium with Singe’s flair for crooning and melting songs into new interpretations. Later, a cover of Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” entered ballad territory complete with a stunning falsetto. More original material would have been welcome, but Singe’s range and reimagining of so many different songs into both sexy, bedroom-ready renditions as well as intimate vocal-focused tracks really worked for his live show.
Opener Alex Aiono, a 21-year-old fresh-faced YouTuber from Phoenix, Arizona, got the crowd popping early on with a set similar to his social media presence. Big on cutesy jokes and musical mash-ups, Aiono’s set featured plenty of familiar pop culture notches just like his “big brother” headliner Singe did later on in the evening. Arriving onstage in a crisp Rolling Stones t-shirt and slick backed hair, Aiono was the perfect opener for Singe, appearing as a slightly more clean cut variant on the same boy next door with a golden voice shtick that seemed to define both acts.
Aiono’s set proved that fans show up for the covers but stay for the original content. New songs like “Mo Fire” and “How Fine You Are” (“Girls don’t understand how fine they are, so I gotta tell you”, he told the crowd in a smooth way before launching into the song) showed some legitimate songwriting chops that are definitely radio ready. Single “Work The Middle” instilled a much needed fun dance-ready party atmosphere within the ballad-heavy set.
The mashup component of Aiono’s set proved his cleverness as well as musical prowess for arrangements. On a combination of The Chainsmokers’ “Paris” and Rihanna’s “Kiss It Better” he combined the two massive hits for something entirely new, melting the pop and EDM monsters into a somehow raw and vulnerable new entity. Later, he combined “Goosebumps” by Travis Scott, “Child’s Play” by Drake and “Juke Jam” by Chance The Rapper for a triple threat melted into a fun, catchy new tune that managed to be cohesive despite those three songs’ wildly different sonic flavours. He even pulled out a “Vancouver exclusive” in covering Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” and rhetorically asked “Is it cool if I play a little something on my guitar?” before a cover of James Bay’s “Let It Go”. All this stuff was fun to see live, but Aiono’s set would benefit from more original songs given how good they are and could stand on their own.
Setting up a Macbook to play the beats, Aiono would then move center stage to strut his stuff and work the room for his devout crowd. At one moment, a fan up front suggested he should be the main act of the evening, to which he humbly thanked Singe for asking him to come on the road with him in the first place, before ending his set with a Baroque-infused cover of Drake’s “One Dance” featuring a wildly catchy keyboard line.