Live in Manila: 2012 in concerts
MANILA, Philippines - Thanks less to globalization than to music piracy, the dreams of concert-goers for their favorite foreign acts to play on Pinoy soil have been coming true.
With music sales still dwindling due to illegal downloads, artists from across the globe have been descending on our shores to augment whatever revenue they can still mine off their talent.
Still, exorbitant ticket prices aside, it’s not all about the money. After all, there’s nothing for spectators like beholding a solo act or band in the flesh and for artists to hear fans’ adulation, the language barrier across countries coalescing into familiar roars of “Yeaaaaah” or “Wooooo.”
Social media has also had a big hand in improving our concert lineups, with today’s viewers — freed from the need to send fan mail — able to directly, instantly appeal to singers or bands via Twitter, etc.
The outgoing year has been a particularly big one concerts-wise: numerous acts either fresh or long overdue for a show here finally made their Philippine debut, while previous visitors or suking performers returned to savor some more Pinoy love and moolah.
In between, Filipino artists themselves have either mounted huge solo shows or were part of one-night “festivals” featuring more acts than people have fingers.
For an enumeration of who played where this past year (in Metro Manila, at least), one need not look further than the Manila Concert Scene blog, which has an extensive laundry list for those who wish to review or reminisce.
This piece, on the other hand, is but a brief and random 10-point recap of concert year 2012 — with our kudos to all concert performers, crew members, organizers and producers, and the fervent viewers who kept the faith.
1. Where have you guys been?
The new millennium, or at least this decade, has been shaping up to be an improvement on, say, the 1990s, when us middle-aged folk wondered when big-name acts — they whose tapes or CDs populated our music collections — would ever come over and rock our archipelago.
This year in particular marked the Philippine debut of long-sought artists such as the ’80s-onward thrash metal band Megadeth, new wave outfit Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, alternative-rock darlings Morrissey, The Smashing Pumpkins and, er, Creed, and — 40 years into his career — piano-playing pop man Elton John.
Watch former The Smiths vocalist and animal rights advocate Morrissey perform in Manila:
2. Welcome, newer first-timers
We’d like to think that the country’s clout as a concert venue has grown much, which would help explain why newer top draws are flying in as well — among them pop divas and American Idol judges Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj, wispy Nelly Furtado, the bands The Fray, Foster the People and, perhaps the coolest this year, Death Cab for Cutie.
JLo performs 'Dance Again' at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on November 26:
3. Back by popular demand — or not
Many of our visitors had played soldout shows before, and this year they got to reprise their earlier, massive-in-Manila success.
These include new wave stars Tears for Fears, the Adam Levine-led quintet Maroon 5, candy-pop California gurl Katy Perry, rock quartet Lifehouse, teenage multitasker Greyson Chance and former Police-man and pop-rock icon Sting, to name a few second helpings (3rd in Sting’s case).
On the other hand, there are those who keep coming back every few years that they’re hardly news, such as James Ingram, America, Kalapana, The Stylistics, Engelbert Humperdinck and, arguably the most welcome of them all, Sergio Mendes (with Brasil 2012).
To paraphrase a Mendes song, it looks like these acts are never gonna let us go.
Greyson Chance returned to Manila in November to open Christmas season in TriNoma Mall:
4. Nostalgia for not so long ago
Most of these concerts doubled as nostalgia trips back to the younger days of the artists and their fans.
That can be said of nearly everyone mentioned above as well as Pinoy rock heavies Wolfgang, erstwhile American Top 40 dames Cyndi Lauper, Taylor Dane, Wilson Phillips and Olivia Newton-John, disco survivors The Village People, and the reunited New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys.
Wolfgang covered the Beatles hit 'Come Together' in their 20th anniversary concert:
5. All-star extravaganzas
Some of the biggest 2012 gigs are literally so in terms of featured performers and running time.
Case in point: the 9-hour marathon gig “Rock loQal: I am loQal, i Rock,” an occasion for the country’s top rock acts since the ’90s and two-thirds of ’70s icons Juan Dela Cruz Band to prove that original Pilipino music, or at least Pinoy rock, need not be written off at all.
Joining the Pulp Summer Slam in the roster of annual aural monstrosities were Smash Project and Bazooka Rocks, which likewise featured newer rock acts that, in this post-NU 107.5 era, are relatively struggling for recognition.
On the pop end, there is the latest iteration of the covers bonanza that is the Metro Manila stop of the latest American Idol tour, which also marked the local debut of part-Pinay AI runnerup Jessica Sanchez.
Watch the opening number at American Idol LIVE! in Manila at the Smart Araneta Coliseum:
6. The shows must go on, and did
Thanks to real-time news, these visiting bands saw firsthand the resulting deluge and so wound up having a mutually memorable time with their respective, flood-braving audiences come gig night. (More so in the Pumpkins’ case, with band leader Billy Corgan postponing their gig by a day to let as much of the metropolis’ floodwaters subside.)
The Smashing Pumpkins perform 'Tonight, Tonight' on August 8, 2012 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum:
7. Some pre-gig controversy
Still fresh in the minds of most is Lady Gaga’s two-night return to the country — not just for her gritty-glamorous “Born This Way” show but for the threat of being banned from, um, mounting her gig in the first place, with Malacañang even getting involved.
Another offstage, pre-concert furor concerned Sting, whose “Back to Bass” Manila leg went on to be moved from the MOA Arena to the Smart Araneta Coliseum following an appeal to the singer-songwriter-bassist slash environmental activist.
Watch highlights of Sting's December 9, 2012 concert in this fan video by ybmariano on YouTube:
8. There were instrumentalists, too
Fans of instrumental prowess got their fill of musician-fronted gigs, too.
Jazz idols Dave Grusin and Lee Ritenour, blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, rock pros Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan, Derek Sherinian and Tony MacAlpine, drummer Marc Steven Bell a.k.a. Marky Ramone (alumnus of the legendary but defunct Ramones), trumpeter Chris Botti and the Japanese “math rock” gang Toe dazzled audiences who prefer sans-singers feasts for the ears.
Here's a fan video of Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan, Derek Sherinian and Tony MacAlpine in Manila:
9. More ways to see them all
Almost comparable to classic rivalries like Toyota-Crispa or Time-Newsweek, there were two main concert venues this year: the freshly opened Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City and Quezon City’s decades-old Smart Araneta Coliseum. (A distant 3rd: Pasay’s World Trade Center.)
Yet gigs were not limited to those venues, what with a slew of lesser-known acts getting booked for shows in Ayala (such as the multi-band gig Live 5 at TriNoma), SM (e.g., the aforesaid Portnoy & peers gig) or Megaworld malls (including the buy-their-CD-watch-their-show stints of Zsa Zsa Padilla and daughter Zia and Korean dude Jay Park).
Special mention goes to, among others, the Music Museum in San Juan, which continues to host local and foreign concerts (such as The Sound of Music offspring the Von Trapps and Ely Buendia’s orchestra-backed gig; the latter will have a repeat on January 26, 2013).
The Von Trapps performed a cover of 'Bayan Ko' at their December 8, 2012 concert in Music Museum:
10. Postponed performances
“Asia’s Songbird” Regine Velasquez marked her 25th year with a grand “Silver” concert at the MOA Arena.
But a virus-stricken Velasquez was rendered voiceless on concert day, Nov. 16.
The gal hung on to a sliver of a chance that she could still sing but, alas, her croaking voice made her cut the show short, vowing to make it up to the thousands who showed up. (“Silver Rewind” takes place on January 5.)
And from out of the blue came what was going to be the big-bang closer of 2012: a concert by Korean rapper-songwriter Psy on the heels of his global hit “Gangnam Style.”
The gig, slated for December 20, got postponed “due to logistical issues,” the show and its anticipated flash mob now set for February 2013.
Enough time to practice the horsey jig with your own sexy lady.
Watch the video that sealed Psy's place in YouTube and social media history here: