MANILA, Philippines – When you hear the name Gary Valenciano, you think of someone with the voice of a true balladeer, but also someone whose trademark dance moves have awed and inspired millions of fans spanning different generations.
We've found ourselves teary-eyed when he sings “Natutulog Ba Ang Diyos,” nostalgic when he performs “Di Bale Na Lang,” with mouths agape when he sings and dances to “Hataw Na,” and a bit more carried away when avsong of his plays in the background during an important scene in a teleserye.
The man otherwise known as Mr. Pure Energy seems to never run out of spirit or goodness in his heart, which is probably why he never runs out of blessings and loyal supporters as well.
How does a man who has everything – a prolific career, beautiful children, and an ever supportive wife – celebrate his 35th year in the industry? By sharing the gift of music so he can give back.
On its second year, Gary V’s Valentine concert, Love in Motion, delivers first class entertainment in the same prime venue, sit-down dinner style with waiters serving a sumptuous three-course meal and catering to your every whim.
It’s not just the salmon and cheesecake that made Love in Motion extraordinary; or the big band set-up and impressive repertoire. It’s the fact that 100 percent of the proceeds from this show goes to Operation Blessing, Shining Light Foundation, and the people displaced due to the eruption of the Mayon Volcano in Albay.
Gary’s daughter, Kiana – who has likewise created a name for herself as a recording artist, performer and social media star – opened the show. She was a vision in a little black number, her alabaster skin glowing under the lights and against the seemingly star-lit backdrop.
It was a scene from a movie come to life – the atmospherics and the backdrop were reminiscent of a scene from La La Land.
A pianist played a repertoire of classics, from Little Willie John’s “Fever” to “Moon River,” made popular by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Such songs are not commonly sung by performers her Kiana’s age, but she pulled it off nonetheless.
Kiana was part sweet, part sultry as she sang “La Vie En Rose” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” her voice indicative of her youth but her gait and facial expressions unveiling the woman that she is.
Her set was relaxed and romantic, but no show with Gary V in it would let the show stay that way for long. The AMP Big Band fires up the stage, setting the vibe for the rest of the evening with layer upon layer of rhythm and beats. The voice over announcer introduces Gary as he climbs on stage and the band smoothly segues into accompanying him as he sings Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E.”
“You can’t imagine how good it feels to do something I’ve always loved to do – to perform this way,” he says. “That’s what the night is about, folks. It’s about all of these ideas; these musical ones celebrating a world that I’ve often loved to express.”
Singing the standards
Gary and the AMP Big Band – led by Mel Villena – then launched into a highly stylized and a cover of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” This song number on its own was a novelty, as one doesn’t often get to see Gary V crooning to a song originally sung by the likes of Freddie Mercury.
Gary then sings a Stevie Wonder original, “For Once In My Life” and makes it his own – his version far detached from Stevie’s or even Michael Buble’s cover.
He commends the ladies in the crowd for looking their best on that particular evening, and serenades them with “The Way You Look Tonight,” a Frank Sinatra original.
After singing a series of standards, Gary revisited some of his oldest and most loved hits, while making sure the experience would be different from his ‘80s performances. Imagine jazz versions of “Di Na Natuto” and “Di Bale Na Lang,” different but impressively done.
He concluded this part of the set with a cover of the Spider Man theme from the 1960s, squeezing in some flashy moves in between verses.
Daughter Kiana then joins him on stage, and their duet of Spiral Staircase’s “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday” manifests just how alike father and daughter are; both oozing with talent and bursting with energy.
After Kiana exits the stage, and Gary performs a few more songs, then welcomes his next guest.
“It’s a great privilege and an honor to bring out on stage one of the Philippines’ finest singers. She goes by the name Jona,” he said.
The Pinoy Pop Superstar grand winner was pure elegance in a crimson ruffled – yet sexy – off-shoulder gown. She sang Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” solo before letting her soulful voice conquer a medley of disco hits such as Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” and “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind & Fire; as well as Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Gary and Jona take turns impressing the audience, with Mr. Pure Energy alternating from singing and dancing to pounding on the percussion instruments. He momentarily steals the spotlight from Jona when he does a very smooth rendition of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.”
Jona and Gary’s set is arguably the most spectacular part of the concert, but it probably would not have been as entertaining if not for the outstanding big band musical arrangements and the support given by the back-up singers in cute '20s Flapper Girl attire and The Manoeuvres – a dance group that has been with Gary from the start.
The lights dim considerably and Gary sits in front of the piano. He thanks the audience for attending his fundraiser; the tickets after all, aren’t cheap, with prices ranging from a little over P10,000 to close to P16,000.
He plays “Huwag Ka Nang Umiyak,” a song by the now defunct band Sugarfree that was resurrected when he sang it for the soundtrack of the TV drama Ang Probinsyano.
Gary then shares an anecdote on how her wife and manager, Angeli Pangilinan-Valenciano, encouraged him to pray at a time he lacked creativity inside the studio. He followed her advice and the song “Take me Out Of The Dark” was born.
Seeing and hearing Gary Valenciano passionately singing this song as he played it on the piano on this particular show is by far one of the most beautiful solo performances I have ever been blessed with the opportunity to bear witness to. It brought tears to my eyes.
I was so moved, not merely because of the song’s message, but because I realized how truly amazing Gary Valenciano is as a songwriter, musician, and performer.
The crowd stood, whistled, applauded for minutes, and yelled ‘bravo’ in appreciation of his performance.
On to the encore
Gary wore his dancing shoes again and jumped into performing his most upbeat hits: “Eto Na Naman,” “Shout For Joy,” and “Hataw Na;” all the while contradicting his own claims that he can no longer move to the music the way he used to.
He was still very much in sync with the Manoeuvres, flawlessly executing dance routines as if it were 1994 and proving that he truly is the original total performer.
People shout for more after they exit the stage, and so Gary V returns and performs Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Let’s Groove,” ending the evening on a cheerful note.
Held last February 14 at the Grand Ballroom of the Shangri-La at the Fort, Love in Motion was directed by Paolo Valenciano and produced by Manila Genesis Entertainment. – Rappler.com