Logistical hiccups a downer in one of Ben&Ben’s best concerts
Over the past five years, Ben&Ben has become one of the country’s defining music acts of this generation. And they have all the hits, the awards and streaming numbers to show for it. But getting there wasn’t easy. It was a long journey—one that took hard work and unwavering dedication to the craft.
Talent, of course, is the most crucial element. But it was the fans—the “Liwanag”—who helped the group realize the enormity of what it’s still capable of doing. And it was only fitting, Ben&Ben thought, to repay the love by mounting their “biggest concert yet” with the “longest set” and the most “ambitious performance ideas” they could think of.
And so for more than two hours and 24 songs, Ben&Ben shone the light back to the 65,000 people who trooped to the SMDC Festival Grounds for the group’s “Homecoming Concert.”
With bursts of fireworks and gushes of smoke, the nine-piece collective—made up of Paolo and Miguel Guico, Poch Barretto, Toni Muñoz Jam Villanueva, Agnes Reoma, Andrew de Pano, Patricia Lasaten and Keifer Cabugao—kicked off the concert with the songs “Langyang Pag-Ibig,” “Pagtingin” and “Upuan,” whose joyous interplay of percussion and violin made for a warm, wholesome soundscape.
When “Maybe the Night” started playing, a woman in line for food shrieked. She had been waiting for a good 30 minutes, but ran off toward the stage so she could sing along.
The slower, more poignant ballads like “Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay” featured some of Miguel’s strongest and most earnest vocal performances. “Comets,” meanwhile, had fans waxing sentimental over people who are meant to make only brief stops in our lives.
The group revelled in the Christmas spirit with the holiday-inspired track, “Bibingka.” Percussionists Andrew and Toni had the crowd swooning with their duet to “Pasalubong.” While Paolo and Miguel did the vocal heavy lifting, other members were given their own time in the spotlight with instrumental solos: Andrew on guitar; Agnes on bass; and Keifer on the violin.
If the first half of the set alternated between festive and wistful, the second half was more fiery, energetic, and exuded palpable angst. “Kapangyarihan,” whose recorded version features the P-pop band SB19, is an anthem that calls out abuse of power and demands accountability from people meant to serve.
The band brought out pop-soul artist KZ Tandingan for the female empowerment anthem “Sabel.” “Lunod,” a tune that aims to destigmatize mental health, was delivered in a frenetic fashion with the band volleying energy among singer-songwriters Zild and JK Labajo.
One of the things that makes Ben&Ben’s music popular is that every song and every lyric they write speaks of stories, emotions and situations that people find themselves in at one point or another. As such, for many listeners, their music has become a source of comfort.
In “Magpahinga,” the band reassures the crowd that there’s no shame in slowing down and taking a break when things become overwhelming. “Sometimes, even if we’re already with our loved ones, there are still things that are difficult to open up about… There will come a time when you will get too tired—from school, work, love life. But still, we feel compelled to keep moving,” said Miguel. “Pero ‘di kasalanang magpahinga.”
“The Ones We Once Loved,” which was heartrendingly delivered by Paolo, pointed out that letting go is a precursor to healing. “The burden we carry, we have to slowly let go of them along the way, so we can heal,” Miguel said.
The hit song “Leaves” was a tap on the back, saying everything “will be alright.” “‘Di Ka Sayang” was a pep talk on self-love and acceptance. “It’s a chance to tell others—and ourselves—that, ‘Tanggap kita, mahal kita at kailan ma’y ‘di ka magiging sayang!” Miguel said.
Stressful queuing experience
While the band played one of the best concerts of their career, it wasn’t without hiccups. Because of the disorganized entry and queuing system, many disgruntled fans huffed and puffed waiting in lines that snaked across nearby roads.
The show promoter, Ovation Productions, apologized for “the logistical challenges that inconvenienced many fans.” The band meanwhile issued a statement after the concert to “sincerely apologize” for the “deeply stressful queuing experience.” They also promised to be more involved in future concert preparations to make sure such issues wont’ happen again.
“While we can’t undo the pains you’ve been through, we can help make things right moving forward,” they said.
Nonetheless, Ben&Ben couldn’t be happier for the outpouring of love, support and understanding. “Words can’t express how grateful we are for you, Liwanag. Thank you for coming. Every song was for all of you,” the band said.
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