Cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore singer-songwriter JJ Lin picked up his Sanctuary World Tour after 1.5 years, by presenting the “Sanctuary Finale Virtual Concert” to fans on Saturday night (10 July). Unfortunately, despite over a year in making, the concert experience for a majority of the fans was ruined by continuous streaming issues on Sistic, the official concert ticketing site, with some fans only managed to catch the last 30 minutes of the show.
Lin's Sanctuary World Tours have taken the crew to 43 cities and 66 staged shows. For the finale, the organiser dubbed the show to be a “highly anticipated online concert which will feature curated content, customised stage design and brand new costumes, creating an immersive and interactive performance to bring you an audio-visual experience like never before.”
However, a black screen greeted the fans who streamed on Sistic when the concert started at 8pm, with some having the countdown screen stuck, or the luckier ones, a freeze-frame of Lin’s face.
Opening the concert with a white futuristic outfit, my next frame showed three seconds of Lin singing his second song, 'No. 89757', a popular track from his 2005 release. Without knowing how many songs had passed, Lin appeared after an outfit change, this time decked in black.
With the concert viewing constantly freezing, the most action I could get from the first twenty minutes of the concert was from the enthusiastic chat that was, unfortunately, choke-full with complaints. “I didn’t realise I was watching Lady 卡卡’s (pronounced as Kaka, a pun on Lady Gaga’s name, meaning stuck in Chinese) concert,” read a comment. “Earth Hour,” someone else commented. The complaints were also rampant on the singer’s official social media platforms, most blaming Sistic instead of Lin for the streaming problems.
Thankfully, I could get hold of someone from JFJ Productions, who redirected me to the Bookmyshow platform, which streamed a lot better than Sistic’s site.
It was then Lin’s “Walking CD” nickname flashed before me for the concert; his flawless pitch while singing, along with the slight tweaks to his popular songs, showcased his vocals and brought forth an eargasm virtual concert.
Remaking one of his most popular hits, 'Jiang Nan', Lin shared with his fans that “it is my favourite remake of the song yet” and hoped that his fans enjoyed the version as well.
“We have created memories with Sanctuary 1.0, Sanctuary 2.0, and now, Sanctuary Finale. I want to relive this part of the Sanctuary concerts with everyone today. Regardless of which Sanctuary stop you have been to, you will find this following segment familiar. I’m curious how you are watching this finale. I imagined some of you to be in front of the computer like you are studying or working, or laying in bed and watching on your phone. Or maybe some of you are with fellow fans, waving your wristbands and enjoying the show. Regardless of how you are watching the concert, I will need your participation next,” Lin said, before asking fans to sing along to familiar songs like 'Dimples' and 'Dang Ni'.
It was evident that Lin’s team had put in a lot of effort with this concert, creating mesmerising videos to go with his performances and visual projections that helped to enhance the concert experience. Indeed, it was a tall order to replicate the feeling of a live concert through a virtual performance. However, the immersive experience Lin’s team wanted to bring across in this concert would have been much more impressive if the severe lagging was fixed.
About 90 minutes into the show, Lin also addressed the streaming issue. “I heard that there are a few issues when it comes to streaming on Sistic. I will communicate with them after this to make sure that everyone gets to watch the concert,” Lin promised, appeasing some of the fans on chat who had been facing problems since the start of the show.
A check on Sistic’s streaming platform showed the following message under the black-screen livestream: “Sistic is currently experiencing technical difficulties for the live stream of JJ Lin Sanctuary Finale Virtual Concert. Please give us a few moments as we work to resume this live stream and ensure that you will be able to view the full concert. We apologise unreservedly to all those affected by tonight’s technical difficulties.”
Those fortunate enough to stream the concert were then treated to a fan interaction segment where two fans, one from Lin’s fan club and the other, a lucky ticket holder, had to guess what the singer had drawn to win a Sanctuary Finale concert towel. The latter, a Singaporean fan based in San Francisco, shared that he had woken up at 4am for the concert. Speaking in a mix of English and Chinese, Lin shared that he was thankful to be able to speak to a fellow Singaporean and once again, promised to “work out something with Sistic”.
Wrapping up the virtual concert with 'A Thousand Years Ago' and 'Twilight', Lin thanked his fans for following his Sanctuary World Tour journey, promising to meet with them in person as soon as the pandemic ends.
Hours after the virtual concert concluded, Sistic sent an email to all ticket holders, stating that the platform is “devastated that despite our best efforts, Sistic was unable to resolve streaming issues with our technical partner whom we rely on for certain aspects of the live broadcast”.
“As disappointed as we are about the outcome, we believe the disappointment of JJ fans is much greater. I would like to apologise unreservedly to JJ Lin, his fans, JFJ Productions, Unusual Entertainment, Isotope Productions, Partners and all crew members who worked so hard to make this highly anticipated show a reality,” Joe Ow, Sistic CEO, said in his statement. The platform will be offering a refund to all affected ticket holders, “as well as the opportunity to view the JJ Lin Sanctuary Finale Virtual Concert at a later date”.
Knowing how good Lin’s live performances are and how immersive his concerts are in person, I sure hope that we can be treated to a proper JJ Lin concert soon instead of the headache that his virtual performance had brought upon last night.