April 6, 2009

inSingapore: Matthew and the Mandarins enthralled audience at Esplanade (6 April 2009)

Posted in Music tagged , , , , , , at 9:14 pm by myrlinn

It’s fantastic when you rediscover old faves, as my mum found this morning when we went to see Matthew and the Mandarins, a popular country-and-western band some decades ago. She used to go see them way back then whenever she was in Singapore, and she had never forgotten them. So, when we saw that they were performing in the Coffee Morning series at the Esplanade, we bought tickets straight away! And we weren’t disappointed. Underlines again what a treat it is to listen to singers from an era when singers can SANG!!!

Matthew started off the show with a “Good Evening”!!?!! When the audience reacted with “morning”, he told us that this was the first time he’d ever performed in the morning in all his years with the band!

My first thought was: can he sing that early in the morning? I know some singers need to have their voice warmed up. But he was absolutely FINE – such a warm, smooth tone to his voice. The band has a very straightforward performing style, it’s all about the song and the music for them. You know when you watch American Idol, and how during country theme weeks, how the mentors always emphasise to the contestants the importance of ‘telling the story’ through song? Matthew does that well.

Lots of great song choices in their set as well. Full of familiar tunes, mostly from the 60s and 70s, I think, since they all sound like I heard them back in the 1970s (in the days before the walkman and personal players, when the music you listened to were the songs your parents played, often loudly, on the living room hifi system!). And they did SEVENTEEN songs, fifteen within the hour-long performance slot, and a couple of encores.

The sound system and acoustics at the Esplanade Recital Studio was fantastic as well. I hadn’t been there before, I think, and I like the intimacy of the space.

Matthew (lead singer, Matthew and the Mandarins)

Matthew (taking a picture with fans at his concert this morning)

We stayed back to just say thanks to Matthew after the show. My mum wanted to find out where he’s performing these days (in case you too are interested in checking them out, they perform at the Singapore Swimming Club).

One very interesting thing Matthew mentioned: seems a metal band in the US recently recorded his song, Singapore Cowboy!!!  Metal Matthew – could that be a new career path for Matthew? LOL.


Coffee Morning at the Esplanade,
6 April 2009, 10.30 am performance.

(I had to enlist the help of my mum and check the internet with a few I wasn’t sure of):

1. Adelina (George Strait)
2. Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash)
3. Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain (Willie Nelson)
4. The Wayward Wind (Tex Ritter)
5. Hello Darling (Conway Twitty)
6. Half as Much / I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You (Hank Williams)
7. Mama Tried (Merle Haggard)
8. Look At Us (Vince Gill)
9. El Paso
10. Ghost Riders in the Sky
11. I Can Almost See Houston From Here – Matthew remarked that he learned this song when he was in Nashville in 1976. He went there by himself and this reminded him of home.
12. Branded Man / Sing Me Back Home Before I Die (Merle Haggard)
13. Chattahoochee
14. The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World – Matthew dedicated this one to his mum.
15. American Trilogy ( a medley of songs)

Encore 1: Don’t Worry About Me (Marty Robbins) – a personal favourite of Matthew’s.
Encore 2:
Singapore Cowboy – their signature song, written by Matthew himself.



Singapore Cowboy (audio recording with Matthew singing the song) I found on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ric1kkzEChA



  1. Andy Young said,

    Love your write-up and picture. Hope you dont mind me using it for the blog about 60s music. Also a posting on Singapore’s National Day show at the Esplanade. Your site is lovely and am learning a lot from it.

    If there is an objection regarding the image, please let me know and I shall take it out.


  2. myrlinn said,

    Thanks for visiting. And no, no objection at all to you using the pic. Actually, your post reminded me that I should really plan a date to go see Matthew and his band again!

  3. Peter said,


    I knew Matthew and the Mandarins during the mid 70s. Still got some of the LP’s of him and his boys. They must have been the best Country Western Band I;ve heard outside the US. Plus they are there for their fans after the show as well and dont just run off like some do.

    All the best from the UK


  4. Vj said,

    Keep up the good work. I am trying to get Matthew and Mandarins for a D&D gig, any chance you have their contact details?

  5. john chesser said,

    Best Country band outside U.S.Went to Shangrila in Peacock room in 70s & 80,s everytime in Singapore,stayed till stumps.Still play CDs & vinyls(which are now on CDs),have them all.I heard they still play at Serangoon Country Club,but only on friday night.Trying to track them down if they play anywhere else

  6. David Loh said,

    Matthew and The Mandarins will be performing for free this National Day weekend 7.8.9 August and possibly 14-15 August 2010 @ the Orchard Central, between 1pm – 230pm at level 1.

    Let your ears guide you to the stage front where it happens.

    I’m not sure who or how to promote them except through blogs like these. Help anyone?


  7. Les Round said,

    First heard Mathew and the boys in 1972 at the Mandarin Hotel in Singapore , I was Working in Singapore at the time, completely knocked us out ,they were so good , we caught there act many many times up until we left in 1975 , and again found when we visited Singapore through the years ,
    great people and entertainers
    I still have two of there Lps ,
    I was telling a country music fan the other day about them and there Albums and said i would copy them for him , it prompted me to look up ,Singapore cowboy ,and found this , i1m also a muso ,still performing ar 81 yrs ,so wonderful to hear Mathew is still got it , all the very best to them and good luck Les

  8. pauline zee said,

    I wish to contact Mr Matthew Tan to qive a quote for performing at an evening dinner function to an international crowd of about 200 on 3rd July 2012 – do you know how I can contact him.

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