Bangkok (AFP) – A three day, $30 million launch party for Bangkok’s biggest and flashiest mall got off to a rocky start on Friday night when its star guest Alicia Keys was briefly left voiceless by a dodgy sound system.
The 15-time Grammy Award winning artist was the main event late Friday at the $1.6 billion IconSiam, the latest massive mall development to compete in the Thai capital’s lucrative yet crowded shopping scene.
Bangkok’s elite and international celebrities — including US actress Naomi Watts and K-Pop star Choi Si-won — attended the opening on the banks of the city’s Chao Praya river in the historic section of the capital.
Costs of putting on the inaugural events that last through the weekend were pegged at 1 billion baht, around $30 million.
Keys emerged on stage in a black and white gown accompanied by helpers who carried the dress trail behind her. She bowed, waved to the audience and started performing.
But the sound system didn’t play along, and the audience stood in confused silence, according to AFP reporters at the scene.
“We cannot hear you!” one man shouted helpfully.
After realising what was happening Keys rolled with the punches and saluted the crowd as she waited a few minutes for the audio to be fixed.
“I was wondering why y’all weren’t responding to my questions!” she said to waves of laughter and cheering as the concert commenced.
Bangkok has seen exponential growth in its malls in recent years — fuelled by a small luxury-loving local elite and some 35 million annual tourists, a third from China, who flock to the country for sun, sand and shopping.
The malls have proved enormously profitable for the small coterie of politically connected family conglomerates that own them. But critics say they have also become a visible symbol of the huge inequality that pervades Thailand.
The kingdom is often ranked among some of the world’s most unequal countries when it comes to income disparity.
IconSiam — which boasts Thailand’s first Apple Store — towers over poor, riverside communities that surround it.
But Chadatip Chutrakul, CEO of Siam Piwat, the company behind the mall, said it would bring business to local communities.
“This is not just for business but to also benefit the surrounding communities and support businesses around the river,” she said.
Thailand is currently run by a military junta but elections are slated for next year.