By letting the fans choose potential songs to be featured in their concert aptly titled “By Request,” artists Bamboo Mañalac and Yeng Constantino were presented with the challenge of breaking out of their comfort zones, when they took the stage on Aug. 17 at the Big Dome.
For Bamboo, who thrives on spontaneity during gigs, being part of a concert that follows a definite structure and sequence was in itself a test. The timed entrances and exits, the spiels, the occasional choreography— these were all very new to him, he said but something that he had to learn and, eventually, enjoyed.
Set to his hit “Hallelujah,” Bamboo’s exciting opener saw him singing while pulling off a series of timed moves to make it appear like he was part of the 3D environment displayed on a humongous screen behind him. Needless to say, Bamboo rose to the occasion, prompting swooning fan girls to shriek at the top of their lungs.
Although he does listen to jazz music and other standards, Bamboo said he didn’t have much experience performing them. So it came as a pleasant surprise when the normally rugged rock star emerged dapper in a black suit, crooning “Singin’ in the Rain” and gamely acting out a scene from the film. Umbrella in hand, Bamboo pulled off a couple of dashing dance moves before ingeniously segueing to an emphatic rendition of the Rivermaya hit “Ulan.”
Aside from “Singin’ in the Rain,” Bamboo performed a fun, jazz-flavored version of “Probinsyana.” He regaled the jam-packed crowd with a vigorous medley of the songs “Use Somebody,” “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Ho Hey.” Meanwhile, his soaring performance of “214”—backed by weepy string music—elicited one of the loudest sing-along sessions of the night.
Having seen Bamboo perform for many years now, the audience knew exactly what to expect from the 37-year-old artist—a fierce musical beast who pours every ounce of energy he has into each number; a fantastic vocalist with the ability to make his songs sound even better live than their recorded versions. One can expect him to do all these with awe-inspiring consistency and intensity.
But the night’s bigger surprise was Yeng, who worked the stage and crowd like a seasoned pro, but at the same time exuded an infectious childlike exuberance. She performed each song with equal fervor, making them all excitingly memorable.
Tackling more recent hits like “Titanium,” “Diamonds” and “Just Give Me a Reason,” the 24-year-old injected her own style, dappling the songs with raspy, slurring notes for added pizzazz.
Her bluesy, acoustic version of “Billie Jean”—made sensual by occasional passages of saxophone—showcased Yeng’s efficient vocal dynamics. She took liberties in bending the melody of the Michael Jackson classic, making sure not to bastardize it. She was playful in her current song “Chinito,” then turned impassioned in “Set Fire to the Rain” and “Girl on Fire.”
Yeng’s charm is largely due to her gung-ho attitude. She is devoid of pretensions in the way she speaks and carries herself. Yes, she’s a little rough around the edges, but what you see is what you get. And that was apparent in how she interacted with diehard fans in a medley of her original songs “Cool Off,” “Salamat” and “Lapit.”
Yeng admitted that she had immersed herself in the pop genre for the past few years, and thus unwittingly stopped performing songs that are more soulful or rock harder—something that, she said, her father sorely missed.
And on that note Yeng willed herself to perform grittier songs, starting with “Cryin’” by Aerosmith. The ferocity with which she attacked the song floored everyone, especially when she audaciously went for a throat-busting high note—a rare attempt. The rocker chick efficiently handled demanding riffs in the torch song “Natural Woman.”
Individually, Bamboo and Yeng are high-octane performers; together they’re electrifying. They dished out some dance-pop with Madonna’s “Music” and “Like a Prayer,” a bit of jazz with “Fever” and a taste of classic R&B with “Let’s Stay Together.” Yeng jested that she was little worried about getting eaten alive onstage by her far more seasoned partner, but she held up wonderfully in their duet of the melancholic “Here Comes the Rain Again.”
Finally, to bursts of confetti and fireworks, Bamboo and Yeng delivered a rousing rendition of U2’s “Beautiful Day” to wrap up what could be—we daresay this early—one of this year’s best concerts.