A1 in Manila: A career-high for the '90s boy band

A reunion concert with A1 at the KIA Theater on October 21 not only impressed the fans in attendance but the band itself too. The excitement surrounding this concert went beyond the typical media hype. After all, when 4 original members of a band get back together after 15 years, it’s a big deal.

Backstage immediately following the show, Ben Adams shared his thoughts with the rest of the original 90’s boy band: Christian Ingebrigtsen, Mark Read and Paul Marazzi. "The hairs on my neck were standing up,” he said. "That may have been the best concert we have ever had!"

Christian and Mark agreed that it was one of the top performances of their careers. Christian also commented on how tuned-in the crowd was, which affected him emotionally and added another level to his performance.

Paul was simply fired-up, ecstatic to be back performing with his friends after so many years. His reunion with the group after years of absence made the concert a stand-out, along with the devotion of their Filipino fans.

As the dressing room conversation continued, the group discussed what they could have done differently to improve. For instance, they noticed that in one of the dance sequences, their blocking was off in one section and they were not holding their mics the same way.

I don't think anyone in the crowd even noticed. They also noted some spots where the vocal harmonies could have been improved, and they instinctively, without any prompting went into a quick rehearsal. 

They re-sang it, then and there, performing it how they wanted it to be for the next time. It’s this type of mindset that has aided in their longevity.

The 4 have a combination of personalities, traits, and talents that compliment each other well. They've also grown to be lifelong friends.

Before the show began, there was a lengthy queue winding around the sold out venue. Although the tickets were all assigned seats, fans couldn’t wait to get in. There was lots of buzz about this concert, not only in Manila but also in Davao and Cebu, where they also performed.

They opened in a single spotlight following each of the members singing a cappella to “Forever in Love," transitioning to a couple of high energy dance numbers with “Same Old Brand New You,” and “Be the First” / "Summertime."

The setlist was a pleasing balance of tempo and pace along with a mixture of their hits and lesser-known songs. Effortlessly transitioning from a high energy dance tracks to a more laid back acoustic type sound while seated on stools.

They even included a medley of songs that weren’t performed live often, generally being pushed off the set-lists by the hit songs. 

As you would expect from consummate professionals they were thoroughly entertainingly. The energy that Ben spoke of after the show was definitely felt during the entire concert. There was an electricity in the air that words cannot describe.

The joy of the crowd was obvious but you could also see it in the band members faces, often smiling and laughing with a youthful exuberance. I covered their show a couple of years back and they performed exceptionally then also, but they were even better now.

With that fourth voice added, their vocal harmonization is genuinely magical, especially in their balled type approach. It’s no wonder they topped the charts in much of Southeast Asia.

At one point, there was a young child in the crowd that Ben had brought on stage for a photo op. 

About halfway through the concert, they brought up the energy again with a dance routine, then performed their new song “Armour,” a fresh take on A1's signature sound.

Throughout the song – only the second time they performed it live on stage – Paul had the crowd waving their hands in the air.

During the encore of “Like a Rose,” they brought a lucky fan on-stage and presented her with a single red rose. 


They concluded the show with an upbeat dance number: their version of “Take On Me.” 

I was lucky to have spent a few days with them, observing their entire press junket and covering both concerts on and off the stage. There’s something intriguing about peeking behind the curtain. Sometimes what you see is not what you get, but that’s not the case here. 

The fun antics and loving interaction as they spoke with the press was not just an act. You find they mean what they say, and their songs themselves reflect that. These guys are down-to-earth, approachable, professional, confident yet not cocky and just simply folks you’d like to call your friends.

It was refreshing to experience two nights of exceptional concerts that were certainly evenings of youthful nostalgia for many. Most of the songs they performed may be over a decade old, but were shared with a fresh twist, indicative of Paul’s return.

This reunion isn’t just a one off – they are planning on creating more music with all 4 of them involved. Their approach to songwriting includes all of them, not just one member doing the bulk of the work. They all function as one.

Backstage after the second concert, they were even slinging around ideas for the next song. I can’t’ wait to hear what’s next. It’s not a band, it’s a family. And it’s nearly a sure bet you’ll see them return to Manila so keep your ears open for that one.