Madcap Martin still draws ’em in with jokes, antics, musicBy Allan Policarpio
As Martin Nievera mingled with the crowd during his recent “Tatlong Dekada” concert at the Big Dome, he noticed a balding middle-aged man. Suddenly, it hit him: He wasn’t getting any younger. Martin feigned tears, which evoked laughter. He asked the man, “Are you a fan?”
But more than a cheeky reminder that he was no spring chicken, the moment showed that in Martin’s more than 30 years in the industry, a lot of his fans had stood by him. “I’d be watching movies for free, and you’d all still be there for me,” Martin said, to much cheering.
And so that night, the 51-year-old balladeer made sure, every chance he got, to thank everyone who turned up— through words, gestures and, more importantly, through music.
He opened the concert with a jazz-flavored “Feeling Good.” He continued with sentimental favorites that he rarely performs, like “Pain” and “No Way to Treat a Heart.”
“The show is going to be like ‘Throwback Thursday,’ ‘Flashback Friday!’” Martin declared. Other songs in his repertoire included “Gotta Look for It,” “Each Day With You” and “How Can I.”
When he wasn’t captivating the audience with his full-bodied baritone, the irrepressible gabber was making ’em guffaw with comedic flair and madcap onstage antics.
The former talk show host left no room for dead air. As Martin put it in a fun video that featured him interviewing… well, himself, he never really treated show biz as a business. “I was just like a child let loose at a dinner party.”
Spotting ex-wife Pops Fernandez seated far from the stage, Martin jested: “Where are you, mother of my children? This is the Concert Queen, and she’s sitting among the people?” Martin then asked the crew to bring out a “throne.”
As Martin escorted Pops to her “upgraded seat,” he quipped, “I know all the things she likes, [above all] me not being in the house…”
Before going back onstage and serenading her with “You Are to Me,” Martin showed Pops that her “throne” also came with popcorn, potato chips, coffee, and, he deadpanned, “Your very favorite thing, the mirror!” This elicited an eruption of laughter.
Having the crowd in stitches now, he proceeded to demonstrate why he remains one of the country’s most respected vocalists. Though famous for his belting, it was when Martin held back and traded his power for subtle, poignant crooning that he really drew the listeners in.
Such was the case in Martin’s heartfelt renditions of OPM classics “Ikaw Lang ang Mamahalin” “Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin” and “Maging Sino Ka Man.” Musical director Louie Ocampo’s masterful arrangements of these pieces and ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra’s sweeping accompaniment made the otherwise over-performed songs sound new.
He also impressed with a medley of Broadway hits that included “Memory” and “Somewhere,” punctuated with a rousing performance of “This is the Moment.” Of course, the show wouldn’t be complete without Martin singing his most popular hits “Be My Lady” and “You Are My Song.” They prompted the loudest sing-along moments.
The concert also featured exciting, at times jaw-dropping, performances from Martin’s special guests. Three numbers that stood out were Martin and Gary Valenciano’s duet of “Kahit Isang Saglit”; “What Kind of Fool Am I” with Regine Velasquez; and “I’ll Be There” with Aiza Seguerra on the guitar.
Actress Anne Curtis stirred the crazies with a mash-up of U2 and David Guetta’s hits “With or Without You” and “Without You,” with the unlikely diva rapping a couple of bars.
Martin also performed “Far Away” with his son Robin.
Longtime fans turned nostalgic whenever photos of Martin flashed on the big LED screens. Perhaps they found comfort in seeing the Martin they had followed for decades—same over-the-top facial contortions, same hyperactive sweat glands, same great voice.
As he ended the show with Kenny Loggins’ “Forever,” Martin exclaimed, “Thirty years in the business, but I feel like I’ve only just begun!”
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