The indefatigable Gary Valenciano

Mika Geronimo

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The indefatigable Gary Valenciano

GARY V. The OPM icon performs at Pure Energy: One Last Time, Friday, May 10, 2024

Photo by Gelo Gonzales/Rappler

'I’ve given you my all tonight, folks, as I’ve consistently tried to do so in every performance I have given you in the past 40 years... This is how I hope you remember me,' says Gary V.

MANILA, Philippines – OPM icon Gary Valenciano’s Pure Energy: One Last Time concert was meant to be a two-nighter. Due to overwhelming demand, fans were treated to an additional third and final show on Friday, May 10 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena – what is believed to be his farewell to music events of this scale after 40 years in the industry.

From his consistent appearances on local variety programs to lending both his voice and acting prowess to primetime television and commercial film, Gary V. is perhaps as textbook definition as it gets for what it means to be a star. 

With the inevitable shift in how we consume entertainment, and in turn, live shows, Gary V’s Pure Energy: One Last Time comes across as a masterclass in both performance and artistry, one that very well may be hard to come by in the future. Here’s why.

Transcending generations and genres

For about three hours, Valenciano pulled out all the stops, may it be from his early catalog, favorite covers, dance hits, or iconic ballads – all with little to no breaks in between. Save for the nostalgia-ridden VTRs, cheeky crowd work, heartwarming anecdotes, and occasional blood sugar level checks, Valenciano was fully in his element as he powered through a whopping 30 songs for this final hurrah.

There were also quite a few surprises and setlist changes, much to the delight of the crowd.

Valenciano brought out several peers in the industry like songstress Zsa Zsa Padilla for “Could We,” South Border’s Jay Durias for “I Will Be Here,” and fellow balladeer Martin Nievera for a medley of slow jams which included “Each Passing Night,” “Reaching Out,” and “Sana Maulit Muli.” 

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Fellow OPM icon Martin Nievera says, ‘We cannot believe this will be your last’ as Gary has announced that he will be focusing on more intimate performances moving forward. Photo by Gelo Gonzales/Rappler

Valenciano noted that the team had prepared for the songs to sound “as close to the original as possible,” all while “sharing different shades of ‘pure energy’.” 

Performers from younger generations like rapper Gloc-9 and P-pop boy group BGYO also set the stage ablaze with Valenciano for “Walang Pumapalakpak” and “Everybody Get Down,” respectively.

Fans were transported back to the ‘80s and ’90s through electric praise opener “Shout For Joy,” Bagets theme song “Growing Up,” as well as upbeat anthems like “Eto Na Naman,” “Hataw Na,” “Sa Yahweh Ang Sayaw,” and “‘Di Bale Na Lang.” 

With almost little to no phones in the air – a rare sight to see in concerts nowadays – the crowd was on their feet, dancing, waving their hands in the air, and reliving their cherished youth.

About 28 songs in, a panting Gary V jokes: “You’re not tired yet? Me also!”

The energy was infectious. At this point, it’s evident that the sheer amount and variety in both guests and songs are truly reflective of Valenciano’s career – there’s something here for everyone.

“We cannot believe this will be your last,” Nievera tells Valenciano after singing “Lead Me Lord” alongside other celebrity guests. “Wherever your journey leads you, as you leave this legacy to start a new [one], we are behind you 100 percent.”

A culminating event of a 40-year journey
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A fervent Christian, Gary’s concert included segments where he speaks about how his faith has powered him through his long career. Photo by Gelo Gonzales/Rappler

They don’t call him Mr. Pure Energy for nothing.

From his stellar vocals to his dance moves, the OPM icon lived up to his moniker for those 3 or more hours performing with nary a break – setting an impressive pace for his fellow dancers and vocalists onstage, many of whom were much, much younger than him.

To pay homage to certain highlights of his career, joining Gary V were performers from his stint at Joseph the Dreamer, as well as the ’90s dance group Manoeuvres along with their protégés, Manoeuvres Sons and Manoeuvres Ignite.

There is also much to be impressed by, production-wise. From giant LED screens that set the mood for many songs, a slanted stage at the back to make the scene more dynamic to maximizing the use of jib and drone cameras, not to mention sharing the spotlight with what looks to be a hundred performers and live instrumentalists, concertgoers were guaranteed to have made the most out of their tickets.

Several times, Gary would give credit to his son, Paolo Valenciano, the show’s director.

But at the heart of it all is his palpable connection with the audience. Through equal parts command of the stage along with a good grasp of genuinely enjoying himself, Valenciano knows how to work a crowd all right. 

During “‘Wag Mo Sanang Isipin” and a medley of “Kailangan Kita,” “Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin,” and “ How Did You Know,” the singer left the comfort of his stage to interact with the crowd on the floor and lower box sections of the arena, where he shook hands, gave hugs, and completed hand hearts.

A true family man through and through, Valenciano also prepared an adorable “Jackson V” number featuring The Jackson 5’s string of chart-toppers alongside daughter Kiana and son Gab, as well as nephew and niece Gio and Lianna Martinez.

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Gary’s children Gab and Kiana Valenciano perform with their father at Pure Energy: One Last Time, Friday, May 10, 2024. Photo by Gelo Gonzales/Rappler

With feats spanning decades, and now three massive sold-out arena shows, you may be wondering: Why stop?

The next chapter

In 2018, Valenciano successfully underwent a bypass procedure and surgery for kidney cancer. He continues to maintain his health accordingly in light of his ongoing battle with type-1 diabetes. But make no mistake, his health is far from the reason for taking a breather.

“How long can this go on for, in this way?”

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The show also teased an upcoming documentary on Gary V, to be directed by Jed Regala, who’s known for his music video work with the likes of pop groups SB19 and Alamat. Photo by Gelo Gonzales/Rappler

Before capping off the night with an emotional rendition of “Take Me Out of the Dark,” Valenciano explained that it was a divine revelation that took place a decade prior that gave him the answer.

On the morning of his second 25th anniversary show in 2008, Valenciano found himself in poor physical condition. It was here that he encountered God in a reflective trance, as he looked back on his career under the moniker of Mr. Pure Energy.

“A God-given vision is usually meant to symbolize something in the future that is going to take place,” he said, recalling the encounter. “Well, friends, that future is now.”

Valenciano realized that “there is more” beyond what he has achieved over the years. That a higher, more fulfilling calling awaits him in what he describes as an uncertain, yet exciting “horizon.”

The singer is also known for his philanthropy. For Pure Energy: One Last Time, he named the Shining Light Foundation as his beneficiary of choice. The charity organization provides aid to churches and the impoverished.

“I’ve given you my all tonight, folks, as I’ve consistently tried to do so in every performance I have given you in the past 40 years. All meant to move you [in your heart].” he tells his audience. “This is how I hope you remember me.”

He then proceeded to reassure fans that the concert was merely the closing of a chapter, likening it to a series finale. 

A concert documentary helmed by director Jed Regala is also underway. In a brief teaser shown right after the concert, the crowd was presented with glimpses of behind-the-scenes magic and testimonies from Valenciano’s close collaborators.

Until then, consider today’s entertainment industry lucky enough to find influence from Mr. Pure Energy’s body of work and dedication to the craft. 

As much as Gary V could exhaust his stature in show business with his God-given gifts and talents, what is more awe-inspiring is his capacity to recognize when a journey must draw to a close. That alone makes us all the more eager to see what this new chapter could bring. –

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