Concert review: Vertical Horizon’s still got it

Paul John Caña

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Concert review: Vertical Horizon’s still got it
The band behind 'Everything You Want' and 'You're a God' was recently in Manila for the third time. How did they fare?

The Newport Performing Arts Theater typically hosts musicals, classical stage performances and even holy mass. It has rarely, if at all, been the venue for any sort of loud rock show. Last June 5 though, alternative rock group Vertical Horizon invaded the theater located at Resorts World Manila. It was the third time the group has been to Manila and the first time they performed in such a swanky setting.

“It’s quite an honor to be playing here in Manila for the third time,” lead vocalist and sole original member Matt Scannell told the crowd. “And in such a beautiful theater, too!”

The two previous times Vertical Horizon played was at the Araneta Coliseum, first as a solo headlining act in 2007, and then with fellow 90s alternative artist Ed Kowalczyk (erstwhile frontman of the now defunct band called Live) in 2012. I was present at both shows not just because I had to cover them as a music columnist but because I am, admittedly, a fan of the band. 

Everything you want

Vertical Horizon is of course, one of the breakout groups of the alternative rock movement of the 1990s. Their contemporaries include Third Eye Blind, Dishwalla and Matchbox 20. While they released a number of independent records early in their career, it was their major label debut, 1999’s Everything You Want that catapulted them to mainstream success. They have since released three more albums, but they are perhaps still best known for their radio friendly hits from their first record, including “You’re A God,” “Best I Ever Had,” and “Everything You Want.”

WE MEET AGAIN. This is the band's third time in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Resorts World Manila

The nostalgia factor was definitely pronounced at the show last Thursday night. Men and women in their late 20s and early to mid-30s were humming the songs as they filed into the theater before the scheduled 8 pm start of the show. It was a little unsettling at first to remain seated and clap politely when the band nonchalantly walked out onstage; there was the usual audience roar, but it was much tamer than, and not quite as loud as, the typical madhouse rumble at, say, the Big Dome or the Mall of Asia Arena.

Still, when Matt and the rest of the band (Ron LaVella, Donovan White and Jeff Jarvis) started on the first song, “Instamatic,” the crowd was as enthusiastic as any group of people sitting on plush velvet seats in an upscale concert venue could get. 

The frontman was wearing his usual uniform of fitted black shirt, dark jeans and dark leather boots. He was animated and chatty, often starting a song with an anecdote. “This next song was written when I was living in New York,” he said, to introduce “I’m Still Here.” “I was broke and I couldn’t afford to live there, and one day I got a fever and that’s when I wrote this song. It’s essentially just me wanting Advil.” He asked everyone to stand up, and we all did, but everyone was back in their seats before the song even finished.

Send it up

“At least that song had a story,” Matt said afterwards. “This next song, I’ll admit it now, it really doesn’t mean anything.” He then segued to “Send It Up,” a personal favorite. I had long since suspected that no deep, philosophical meaning can be gleaned from a song with words that go, “I’m alright/By the way/Everyone/Saves the day/Sometimes I feel it/Send It up/Send it up now.” I was right. It’s still a pretty catchy song though. 

Throughout the almost two hour long show, it was evident that Matt thoroughly enjoyed being here in Manila. He told the story of eating lechon (“The pig doesn’t stand a chance!”) and halo-halo (“Wow!”) and seemed genuinely happy at the adoration he received from hardcore fans.

“I love you, too,” he said to a random girl who screamed out her affections for the singer. “When we were just starting out, we wouldn’t even have dared to dream that we could play here in Manila,” to which the reply was resounding applause.


From dedicating the song “Forever” to victims to Typhoon Yolanda, to messing up the words to “Give You Back” as he played solo on the acoustic, Matt endeared himself to the crowd. When he told the story of how he was in his own car when he first heard a song of theirs being played on the radio, almost everyone sighed and rooted for him.

The band’s last studio effort, 2013’s Echoes From The Underground, did not produce any radio hits, but the most ardent fans sang along when the band did two songs off that album, “Lovestruck,” and “Broken Over You.” They finished the regular set with the biggies, “Best I Ever Had” and “Everything You Want,” before teasing the crowd for a bit. They of course returned for the big encore, “You’re A God.”

“We hope to come back soon,” Matt said. “You know what? We will come back.” If it happens, that’ll be the fourth time for Matt and the gang, but for an entire generation of kids weaned on 90s alternative rock, that day could not come any sooner. –

Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Lifestyle Asia magazine and is a live music geek. Email him at or follow him on Twitter @pauljohncana


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