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REVIEW

No need to fuss about foreign acts

By: - Desk Editor
/ 07:49 PM February 20, 2012

The way we see it, there shouldn’t be much fussing about the number of foreign artists coming here to do concerts, because the local audience is educated enough to decide what it wants to see.

The international stage musical “Mamma Mia!” was a hit during its four-week run, but so were many local shows mounted this Valentine season. For instance, the Ogie Alcasid-Regine Velasquez team-up at Smart Araneta Coliseum and Rico J. Puno’s stint at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila were, according to venue sources, almost sold out. (On Feb. 15, Inquirer saw concert-goers and privileged Resorts World guests fill up Newport to near-capacity again, for Jon Santos’ “Love in 3D.”)

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From the gigs we watched last week, it was likewise apparent that there is a robust market for different types of acts— whether they’re old or young artists shouldn’t matter, for as long as they deliver the goods.

Annie Brazil, Emcy Corteza, Pat Castillo,

Ferdie Topacio

Feb. 14, Merk’s Bar Bistro

The New York-based Brazil comes home every year to do small shows at her son Richard Merk’s club. This time around, she almost failed to go onstage on account of a slipped disc. But Brazil, now 78, couldn’t be stopped from doing what keeps her alive, which is to sing standards in her endearingly quirky way.

Accompanied by Elmir Saison on keyboards, Brazil summoned the spirit of bygone eras to evoke the joy and pain of romance. In a raspy voice, she sounded like one’s favorite grandma, recalling her past in mood-inducing songs like “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and “Our Love Affair.” There was bitter truth in her rendition of the 1946 Billie Holiday tune “Good Morning Heartache.” It was one of the rare moments when it felt good to hear a sad song.

“You’re nobody till somebody loves you,” Brazil intoned, and that was enough exhortation to understand the meaning of life.

Corteza’s takes on “Inseperable” and “Kahit Ika’y Panaginip Lamang” heightened the night’s cuddly mood. Castillo singing minus-one was a mild letdown, though she acquitted herself well on “As Time Goes By” and “The Very Thought of You.” Topacio had considerably improved since we saw him perform last year. And he brought the house down with his penchant for cracking jokes while singing.

Engelbert Humperdinck

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Feb. 15, Smart Araneta Coliseum

ENGELBERT Humperdinck sends his audience to middle-of-the-road bliss.

Blues musicians generally get better as they age, notwithstanding bad habits. Pop balladeers try to hang on and preserve their legacy by pleasing their fans and, well, controlling their indulgences. Engelbert Humperdinck is 75 and, as far as we could see during this performance, still sends women—at least those in his age range—screaming. He claimed he wasn’t drinking too much these days (he took only a couple of sips from a wine glass).

His repertoire didn’t veer much from his set list almost two years ago at the same venue, although it was refreshing to see him do Latin rock via Santana’s “Smooth” and a bit of country by way of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” On both occasions Humperdinck looked like he could do anything and not seem to be trying too hard.

Really, it didn’t take much effort for him to reprise most of his hits, starting on the second number, “Am I That Easy To Forget.” “Lonely Is a Man Without Love,” “After the Lovin’,” “Quando, Quando,” “The Last Waltz” and the rest obviously brought the crowd back to middle-of-the-road bliss.

Green jokes and flirting with women in the audience aside, the most significant thing to look forward to, if and when Humperdinck returns yet again in the future, is how he’s able to preserve that full baritone —which he stretched to full power by belting on “My Funny Valentine” and “My Way” at concert’s end.

Avril Lavigne

Feb. 16, Smart Araneta Coliseum

We thought she would just be a passing fancy after two successful concerts in Manila in a span of three years. But, on this third visit, there was no reason to be skeptical: Avril Lavigne has a large Pinoy fan base who dress like her and agrees with every word she utters in her songs.

Although she’s 27 now, the rebellious streak she projects in such tunes as “What the Hell” and “I Always Get What I Want” struck a positive note among her screaming throng of teenage followers who almost filled up the Big Dome.

Lavigne has sustained her popularity by mining the energy and attitude of punk rock and combining it with a pop sensibility. She didn’t invent pop-punk, but she’s one of its top exponents.

The music in her songs throb with influences of The Ramones and Sex Pistols, although we’d like to see how this would pan out in the next few years.

James Ingram

Feb. 17, Smart Araneta Coliseum

The man’s still got soul, wailing out with hoooo-hooos and gruff phrasing in between sweet vocals. But James Ingram’s performance nearly turned into a disaster because his wireless

LEA SALONGA and James Ingram POCHOLO CONCEPCION

mic kept malfunctioning all evening, going off at crucial moments—to the utter dismay of many in the audience.

At one point, the crowd shouted out its annoyance, and even Ingram couldn’t help but hit the mic with his palm while joking, “Do it again and I’ll kick your ass” (the last word just mouthed in a whisper).

The few instances that the mic didn’t hamper his singing came on “I Don’t Have the Heart” and his duet with Lea Salonga on “Somewhere Out There.”

After the show, many of the spectators streamed out of the Big Dome wanting a drink to shake off the lingering annoyance.

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TAGS: “Mamma Mia, ” Ogie Alcasid-Regine Velasquez concert, Annie Brazil, Avril Lavigne, Engelbert Humperdinck, James Ingram, Jon Santos, Merk’s Bar Bistro, Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts, Rico J. Puno, Smart Araneta Coliseum, Valentine concerts
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