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Utterly bewitching

Heart and soul: Looking as glamorous as ever, Datuk Siti Nurhaliza was in fine voice during her three-night concert series at Dewan Filharmonik Petronasin Kuala Lumpur.

Heart and soul: Looking as glamorous as ever, Datuk Siti Nurhaliza was in fine voice during her three-night concert series at Dewan Filharmonik Petronasin Kuala Lumpur.

Even with symphonic backing, Datuk Siti Nurhaliza was every inch the star of the show.

BRAVING the traffic crawl to the Kuala Lumpur city centre on Friday night wasn’t something I looked forward to. But this was no ordinary Friday night – it was Malay pop darling Datuk Siti Nurhaliza’s big date at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP), the first of her three-night concert series, which promised to add another milestone to her career.

Billed as Siti Nurhaliza In Symphony Live With The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the shows were sold out weeks after they were announced earlier this year.

For those who managed to get tickets, Siti’s performance last Friday at DFP lived up to its hype.

On stage, Siti, who has not lost her manja smile, was the focus of attention as she tackled live symphonic performances of favourites from her career songbook.

The backing of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, led by conductor Kevin Field, made all the difference as Siti’s tunes were carefully rearranged, perfumed and lifted to the next level.

Siti, 34, now joins an illustrious list of singers to work with the MPO, including Tan Sri SM Salim, Datuk M. Nasir and Datuk Sheila Majid.

The packed concert hall proved that these Siti showcases – with local flavour and charm – were apt closers for the DFP/MPO 2012/2013 concert season.

Looking resplendent in a dress designed by Khoon Hooi, Siti stirred up the evening with the all-time favourite Kau Kekasihku.

This song, originally composed by Ajai, was given a new orchestral arrangement by composer/producer Jenny Chin.

Backed by an 80-piece MPO ensemble and watched by a hushed audience, there was no way that Siti could go wrong with this infectious ballad.

The song, which is about love lost, showcased Siti’s vocal prowess as the chorus was sung on the upper register. And as expected, Siti sang the poignant song beautifully.

What a start it was at DFP!

Siti promised her fans a musical journey through her career, with her songs – in pop, R&B and traditional genres – given fresh symphonic arrangements.

Looking back, it has been 12 years since Siti first performed on the prestigious DFP stage.

Back in 2001, she was a guest performer at Tan Sri SM Salim’s concert with the MPO where she sang Pandang Pandang Jeling Jeling and Mohon Kasih.

Returning to DFP in her own symphonic concert series to mark her 18th anniversary in the music industry was, quite simply, a dream come true for her.

Siti was enjoying each and every minute on the DFP stage.

One of the show’s heart-shaped highlights was a medley of her ballads Jerat Percintaan (taken from her 1996’s self-titled debut), Bukan Cinta Biasa (the song for which Siti co-wrote the lyrics), Diari Hatimu and Percayalah.

“Wow! What a relief!” said Siti cheekily, referring to the challenges posed by the medley of ballads.

“Seriously I was thinking, ‘Will I be able to pull this one off?’ Thank God I did,” she added with a laugh.

It was easy to see why thousands of fans are crazy about her.

Watching Siti on stage was an illuminating experience – there is a certain magic in the way she performs and gets deep inside her songs.

Despite her success and media overexposure (according to some cynics), Siti remains that sweet, affable and gracious girl-next-door type.

Never someone to forget her roots, Siti also made it a point to pay tribute to those who inspired her.

And to show her gratitude, Siti performed a medley of the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s songs – Malam Bulan Di Pagar Bintang and Tiada Kata Secantik Bahasa.

“This is my tribute to the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee who inspired me to be where I am today,” she said.

As for fan favourites, Siti performed the huge hit Biarlah Rahsia from 2006. The tune, as most fans know, detailed everything that went through her heart with regards to her love life back then. And again, Siti didn’t disappoint with a wonderful string-laden sweep through Biarlah Rahsia, which I felt was her most beautiful rendition for the night.

At the end of her song, Siti half-jokingly said that performing with an orchestra ensemble wasn’t easy. Her banter brought the artiste and audience closer to each other.

Popular tracks such as Hanya Dia, Seindah Biasa, Balqis, Ku Mahu, Cindai and Di Taman Teman further enthralled the fans.

And her concert would not have been complete if she didn’t introduce Purnama Merindu, which was recorded when Siti was just 19 (for her fourth album Adiwarna). Throughout the evening, Siti and the MPO ensemble mesmerised the crowd, but trust the singer to also include songs that were also close to her heart, such as M. Nasir’s heartfelt composition Senandung Semalam (made popular by Alleycats) and Datuk Sudirman Haji Arshad’s Terasing.

She concluded that night at DFP with a beautiful version of Muara Hati (a duet recorded with Hafiz), which she handled lovingly on her own.

Both formidable and adorable, Siti delivered in spades despite the ramped up expections at DFP. Oh yes, she still has it.