IN PHOTOS: Boyce Avenue plays for Manila fans

MANILA, Philippines – Boyce Avenue’s second video uploaded to YouTube in 2007, was an acoustic version of a song by Rihanna, “Umbrella.” It struct a chord with many, regardless of its bare bones production quality and launched their musical career, to date it has garnered almost 12 million views.


Since then, literally, multitudes have taken a look at this band, racking up impressive numbers on their YouTube channel with more than 7 million subscribers and more than 2 billion overall views – yes, that’s billions – and still counting!

As you scan their account, many of the covers are radio-friendly hit songs but also include a wide range of genres, from classic rock to pop to alternative. Either on their channel or during a live performance, song choices and the style in which they perform them, are telltale signs.

A treat to kick off the night, there were two bands from out of town, a pleasant surprise: international up-and-comers, a singer from the States, hailing from Oregon, Savannah Outen, and young pop rock band out of Australia, At Sunset.

Harrison Kantarias, Andrew Kantarias and Tom Jay Williams of 'At Sunset' started things off, hitting the stage firing on all cylinders.

Like Boyce Avenue, this band also includes charismatic brothers with a entertaining demeanor on stage, showing emotion and a striking energy. What really impressed though, was how they handled adversity. Something most wouldn’t have noticed, a few technical hiccups while on-stage, such as part of the drum kit falling off the riser or Harrison on lead vocals breaking his guitar string.

These small incidents give insight to their nature as performers. Really, they've got a stage presence beyond their years, with only a slight twitch of a reaction, he hastily re-tuned the guitar and continued on, seemingly unfazed by it all.

Savannah was up next, a voice with a soothing and sultry quality – think Pink with a dash of Natasha Bedingfield. She’s also made her mark in the YouTube world and holds a resume that includes some impressive work with Disney. Her cover song of “Chandelier" by Sia, showcased her vocal skills and I may prefer it to the original. Her new single is “Boys,” a smooth, yet anthemic pop song, a production of quality, well done.

There’s something special about siblings performing tougher, history shows a track record of success with bands of brothers or sisters. Maybe it’s the family bond that makes them stand out or the inherent vocal qualities that harmonize so well.

And they don’t just do acoustic covers, they have also released a couple of albums with original music, think Switchfoot meets the Goo Goo Dolls with a smidgen of extra tenderness thrown in for good measure.

The 21-song setlist contained mostly covers with originals sprinkled in, and of course, an acoustic segment at about the halfway mark, when their tour drummer, Jason Burros, took break and Daniel sat in on the cajón, that wooden box you actually sit on as you play.

Highlights, for me, included a medley of Oasis songs, the Foo Fighters classic, “Everlong,” and a track by Bruno Mars, “Locked out of Heaven,” all respectably performed, not at all copycats of the originals.

What struck me though, although mostly covers for the evening, they performed them like they were their own, with conviction. You could actually sense that they had a connection with each and every song. Maybe not just choosing them because of their popularity, but because they experienced a bond with the words or the melody.

Stage production was alluring, not overdone but thoughtful in its design and a pleasant balance with intriguing lighting effects playing off some well placed smoke.

They utilized one of my favorite stage effects, a smoke machine that creates a denser ‘fog' so it lingers close to the ground and doesn’t block the artists' face.

They also threw in periodic blasts of smoke from small cannons attached to the front edge of the stage and topped it all off with confetti, to complete the encore.

They regularly changed guitars throughout the concert, but not just for amusement, done intentionally to tweak the sound to accompany the song itself. Daniel performs on the bass guitar with an animated style, always intriguing to watch – generally bass players don’t move around too much.

At the end of the show he even climbed up on the drum kit and jumped off from a decent height.

Not much chatter in between tracks, Alejandro introduced his bothers and himself to the crowd, which brought an uproar from the fans. No need really to introduce the well-known songs themselves, everyone knew exactly what was next, within the first few notes. Expectedly, the Filipino crowd sang along, of course, in unison and in tune.

"We got some singers out there, I swear the Philippines has got some of the best singers in the world!” Alejandro stated with a knowing tone – it’s not their first time performing here – but still seemingly in delighted disbelief.

When they did say something, it was meaningful and with a humble quality. “Thanks for supporting us, when we first played in Manila, February 2009, and that was the first time we had ever played anywhere outside the States and you guys came out in the thousands to support us and we’ve never forgotten that, so thank you.” Then, after a brief pause, Alejandro spoke in Filipino: “Mahal namin kayo... We love you!"

Now having grown beyond the moniker of a YouTube sensation, this band of accomplished musicians and consummate performers, are known internationally. They've come a long way from the first video on YouTube, and they'll go further still. –