Eraserheads’ reunion concert: A show fans will surely remember
After the Eraserheads’s disbandment in 2002, Ely Buendia, Raymund Marasigan, Buddy Zabala and Marcus Adoro went on to pursue various personal musical projects: They formed new groups and played for existing ones. Some dabbled in production and behind-the-scenes work.
Once in a while, they would reunite, either for big concerts—like the ones they did in 2008 and 2009—or smaller tours and corporate gigs. And then they return to their respective lives and careers.
Surely, he would have already grown sick of it all by now, Ely once thought. But somehow and strangely enough, the “journey” continues to surprise the four of them. “We have been to many places, seen different faces,” he said, “but now, it’s time—we’re coming back to you.”
By “you,” Ely meant the 75,000 devoted fans who trooped to the Eraserheads’ “Huling El Bimbo” reunion show on Dec. 22 at the sprawling SMDC Festival Grounds in Parañaque City to relive—perhaps for the last time in this scale—the seminal band’s much revered catalog, which has become a soundtrack to the lives of generations of Filipinos. At around 8:30 p.m., the countdown timer started. On the giant screens, a documentary-esque montage showing the band and nostalgic snippets of 1990s life and pop culture played. And then, from the darkness, and amid the deafening screams, the four emerged, and set off a wave of nostalgia with “Superproxy.”
Actor Elmo Magalona joined the band onstage and introduced his father, the late Francis Magalona, via a hologram projection. The local hip-hop icon was supposed to perform at the group’s “The Final Set” concert in 2009, but tragically died of leukemia just a day prior.
But with the power of technology, that guest appearance happened, at last, after 13 years. And with Francis M’s digital likeness onstage spitting the 22-bar section of the said song, the night’s opening number was emotional as it was explosive.
Eraserheads is one of those rare music acts that need not do much to keep an audience going. If it chooses to, it can simply coast on the strength of its songs, and the show will probably still hold. But not one to do things half-baked, the band pulled all the stops to give the fans a show they will remember.The concert had the vibe of a major music festival with numerous food and activity stalls sprinkled around the venue’s expanse. The fans—composed mostly of Gen X-ers and older Millennials—didn’t seem to run out of energy, jumping, singing, dancing and sharing laughs with their friends. And many of them had camped out as early as 2 p.m. to secure good viewing spots.
On the stage are four giant screens that flashed colorful and eye-catching visuals, from fiery backdrops to psychedelic static and glitches. Fireworks, smoke and laser effects were abundant. Overhead was a fixture in the shape of a flipped letter “E,” whose light colors and patterns shift according to the song’s mood.
In some instances, like the gentle and intimate acoustic performance of “Fill Her,” the “E” was turned over and functioned as a spotlight of sorts while Ely crooned and strummed on his guitar. “It’s hot!” he said before peeling off his jacket and tossing it to the audience.Save for a song or two, the rest of the first phase of the set ran similarly as the track listing of the group’s landmark 1995 album, “Cutterpillow.” This meant a mix of deep cuts like “Slo Mo” and “Paru-parong Ningning” and the bigger hits “Overdrive” and “Huwag Mo Nang Itanong.” While they have tried playing with their songs’ arrangements in past shows to give them a fresh take, this time, the group mrmbers opted to play them as faithfully as possible to the original recordings. Providing additional instrumental accompaniment were Audry Dionisio of General Luna, Mike Amistoso of Ciudad and Jazz Nicolas of Itchyworms.
“Did you like the first part? Intro pa lang ‘yun,” Ely said, after a 30-minute break, which had the not-old-but-not-quite-young-anymore crowd stretching their legs and massaging their back.
True enough, the band was saving their hardest hitters for the second half of the concert: “Sembreak,” “Ligaya,” “Spoliarium,” “Magasin,” and “Maling Akala”—all of which prompted loud sing-along sessions.
While the band moved from one song to another without much fuss, tiny miscues provided brief moments of levity. When Ely started talking about “looking into the future” and “honoring the past,” not a few fans figured that the song “Minsan” was next. So imagine Ely’s and the crowd’s confusion, when the rest of the band played “Alapaap.” As it turned out, Raymund had the wrong setlist. Ely didn’t miss the opportunity to tease him.
With Christmas right around the corner, it would have been a disservice not to perform something from the Christmas album, “Fruitcake.” Mel Villena’s AMP orchestra gave a sweeping string accompaniment to “Lightyears,” a song that was partially written and arranged by the renowned musical director. Keeping up the festive holiday spirit, the band brought out OPM icon Gary V for a rousing number to “Christmas Party.”
Though it’s no secret that the four weren’t exactly the closest of friends, fans were still happy to see the positive energy they had onstage. In “Pare Ko,” Jazz took over the drumming duties, so Raymund could film the crowd with his action camera. As he roamed around the stage, he stopped beside Ely and sang a few parts of the song using his mic.
“With a Smile” was another touching moment with Ely thanking the fans for “inspiring us during the darkest times of the pandemic.” “This song was seen as something inspirational for everyone,” he said. “And you have inspired us to come back.”
A few minutes before midnight, the opening strains of “Ang Huling El Bimbo” filled the air—ang huling “Ang Huling El Bimbo.”
As if on autopilot, the crowd started singing: “Kamukha mo si Paraluman.” They never let up until the last lyric. The songs’ haunting outro blared from the speakers. On the screen was a shot of Ely with a rather pensive look on his face. Fireworks lit up the sky. On the ground, a group of friends swayed side to side, shoulder around each other’s shoulder: “La-la-la-lala. Lala-la-la-la.” INQ
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