Taiwanese veteran balladeer Yu Tian, 67, has a vastly different performing style from livewire singer Frankie Kao Ling-feng.
But he will still sing one of Kao's songs at his concert at the Esplanade Theatre next month as a tribute to his late friend. Kao died last Monday at age 63 of leukaemia.
"My singing style is very different from him," says a sombre Yu Tian over the telephone from Taiwan a day after his friend's death. "I will sing a slow song, the ballad Misty Rain."
The serious-looking, moustached Yu Tian and the flamboyant Kao are as different as chalk and cheese.
Yu Tian's claim to fame was the 1970s melancholic hit Rong Shu Xia (Under The Oak Tree). The lively Kao's trademark was his high-octane performance of songs such as Flaming Phoenix and A Flaming Torch In Winter.
The two singers, who were both popular in the 1970s and 1980s, remained fast friends and Yu Tian was one of the first to arrive at the Taipei hospital after Kao's death.
He said: "I wasn't in time to say anything to him. He was already gone. Watching him lying there, I just broke down and cried."
The fondest memories of Kao, Yu Tian recalls, was the time when they were living next to each other 30 years ago. "We were neighbours. Those were the days where we would visit each other very often," he said.
Yu Tian was among the people in the entertainment industry who banded together to help arrange Kao's funeral.
Of particular concern to them were the young children that the thrice-married Kao left behind, including 16-year-old Bao Ti.
When asked if he would help Bao Ti advance his singing career, Yu Tian said: "If he wants to pursue a career in show business, I'm sure all his seniors and Kao's friends will be more than willing to offer a hand."
The interview then turns from Bao Ti's fledgling career to Yu Tian's long one of more than 40 years.
Has he ever thought of stepping out of the limelight?
Yu Tian replies matter of factly: "Whether I want to retire from showbiz is not my choice. It depends on whether the audience likes me. If they don't want to watch me perform, I'll leave. If not, I'll carry on singing till I can't do it."
Going by ticket sales of his upcoming Singapore concert, it looks like audiences are still hungry for Yu Tian.
About 80 per cent of the 1,900 tickets for the gig - which also features his wife, 62-year-old singer Li Yaping, and his disciple, 45-year-old singer Luo Shi Feng - have been sold.
The trio performed at two shows here last August, which were almost sold out. Due to the overwhelming response, the organiser Biz Trends Media decided to bring them back for another concert next month.
On his upcoming performance, Yu Tian says he will sing his soothing hits such as Rong Shu Xia and It's Drizzling Again.
He said: "I will be singing songs that the audience in Singapore love."
YU TIAN, LI YA PING & LUO SHI FENG 2014 CONCERT
Where: Esplanade Theatre
When: March 9, 8pm
Admission: Tickets are available at $148, $128, $108, $88, $68, $38 (excluding booking fee) from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
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