Whitney Live In Hongkou...

[Eastday.com Report]

Whitney live in Hongkou

Shanghai Daily news

Fifteen years after her last solo concert in Hong Kong, Whitney Houston makes her long-awaited debut on the Chinese mainland. She's past her prime (just barely), but Jin Haili reports that Shanghai still wants to 'feel the heat' with the diva.

She is one of the greatest singers of her time. She has starred in the movies. Her face graces glossy magazine covers and her domestic squabbles fill the supermarket tabloids. She is Whitney Houston, and on July 22, she will rock Shanghai.

It has been a decade and a half - at the peak of her career - since the diva was in Hong Kong. She never made it to the Chinese mainland, kept home by a budding acting career (which eventually fizzled), and crises of domestic violence and drug abuse. But now she is here, in what she told her Shanghai fans was "nothing less than a dream-come-true adventure."

"It's also a dream-come-true story for us," says Yu Suqin, general manager of the Shanghai Arts Corp, agent for the local concert. Last November, the company organized Mariah Carey's Shanghai debut.

Houston, like Carey, will perform at the Hongkou Stadium, and Yu's only regret is that "we cannot hear them perform 'When You Believe' together."

Houston, 41, started on the road to stardom in utero - she has excellent musical genes. The daughter of gospel diva Cissy Houston and cousin of renowned gospel-influenced pop singer Dionne Warwick, it was only a matter of time before Houston realized that music was in her blood.

"Being around people like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Roberta Flack, all these greats, I was taught to listen and observe," Houston says. "It had a great impact on me as a singer, as a performer and as a musician, because growing up around it, you just can't help identifying with it immediately. It was something that was so natural to me and when I started singing, it was almost like speaking."

Her family heritage and her natural segue into singing - to say nothing of an enormous talent - led her to the almost instantaneous success of her eponymous debut album in 1985. With total sales of 20 million, the "Whitney Houston" album is still the all-time best-selling debut album in the world.

Her screen career, which featured lukewarm reviews in mediocre films like "Bodyguard" never took off, but fortunately, her loyal fans forgave her, and stayed focused on the music.

Sophia Chiu, a Shanghai-based Taiwanese, has all 14 of her albums, but confesses that the debut album remains her favorite.

Chiu, 36, has bought a 1,600 yuan (US$192) VIP ticket for the concert, and says that she has friends flying over from Taiwan to attend the concert. Ticket prices range from 120 yuan to 1,600 yuan, very close to the prices for Carey's concert.

It's pricey, considering the diva is only performing 20 songs, but mainland fans (Houston will also hold a concert in Beijing on July 25) are getting a better deal than their Hong Kong counterparts. The top ticket price in Hong Kong is HK$5,000 (US$ 610).

But then, Houston is not a cheap date. According to Wolfman Jack Entertainment, the Hong Kong concert organizer, she and her 50-member production team command US$1.2 million .

"The market will be the judge as to whether Houston is worth the financial risk," says Yu, who declined to reveal the costs of the Shanghai concert.

"I will tell you that I am confident of breaking even," she says, adding that more than 70 percent of the tickets have been sold.

Part of Houston's cost is, undoubtedly, her long list of requirements: The Shanghai organizer received a six-page addendum to the contract with detailed instructions on food, accommodation and dressing room setup.

Dinner, according to her instructions, must be served between 5:30pm and 8pm, and include two hot entrees, two hot green vegetables, a garden salad with three dressings, two types of desserts, loaves of whole wheat and white bread, four cases of assorted regular and diet soft drinks and one bottle of 2 percent fat-free whole white milk ...

"My message for women is to love and respect themselves, for if they love themselves they can love others as well," Houston said when she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the first-ever Women's World Awards at Hamburg's Congress Center on June 28. "I have learned to do this."

In the end, Chiu, the Taiwanese fan, says it best: "I just can't wait for the moment that the whole stadium is on its feet for 'I wanna dance with somebody'."

Date: July 22, 7:15pm

Venue: Hongkou Football Stadium, 444 Jiangwan Rd E.

Tickets: 120-1,600 yuan

Tel: 6218-3267



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