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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Concert Reviews: My Favorite Concerts of 2008

An avowed concert addict, I am listing down here my favorite concerts of 2008 with #1 as my most favorite. #10 does not really mean my least favorite, it just happens to land on that spot, as I have seen around 15 live acts this year.

KYLIEX2008 World Tour
November 27
Asiaworld Arena, Hong Kong

I waited for 3 years for this concert, since Kylie had to cancel her 2005 world tour so that she can undergo breast cancer treatment. Very brave lady! We already had tickets to her HK and Singapore shows then, and we were sad when she had to cancel. Anyhow, the wait was really worth it! It helped too that I was familiar with the songs in her new “X” CD, and to hear them live, was really quite a treat! She’s an incredible performer and although she has many detractors criticizing her voice, she did sound great that night!

November 12
Asiaworld Arena, Hong Kong

Aside from Michael Jackson and George Michael, Billy Joel was one of the male singers that I truly enjoyed listening to, as a teenager in the 80’s. It started with Uptown Girl in 1983, and I only learned later on that he already had hits when I was much younger. When I heard that he was coming to our side of the world, I immediately purchased tickets since I knew he did not anymore record any new songs, and at his age (he said he was 59), it would be next to impossible for him to land in our shores again (although Elton and he are joining forces for a tour this year. Not sure yet if Asia is in their itinerary though). The show was a class act – beautiful, strong vocals; irrepressible and terrific piano playing; a truly heartfelt and sincere performance. I learned later on that this was almost the same set he had done for his recorded NY shows almost 2 years ago, but they sounded as fresh as their first shows. Billy also had a wicked sense of humor!

September 3
Best Damn Tour 2008
Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City

This show was quite a surprise for me because I actually did not quite enjoy her concert last year in Hong Kong. Yes, it was almost the same show, the same set, with minor tweaks here and there, but this time around, Avril was more spontaneous and she seemed to be really enjoying herself onstage. I practically knew most of the lyrics of her songs so it was a virtual sing along from the onset, when she sang “Girlfriend”. This is actually the third time I got to see her perform live, the first time was at the Fort in 2005, where she shared billing with Simple Plan. Arguably, her best damn tour performance yet, in the 3 times I have seen her.

My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade World Tour
January 25
The Fort Open Field, Taguig

I love their dramatic videos and their made-up faces and fancy costumes. If I were 16 years younger, I would be brave enough to wear black mascara, hahaha! In fact, I did, in a piano concert last year in the CCP, very much inspired by their look. This was a fantastic rock show and I loooooovvvveee rock shows!!! Not only are the fans very devoted and loyal, it’s a virtual sing-along, as everyone, that is every single one in the audience knows the lyrics of each of their songs!!! How’s that for audience participation!! Also, it helped that the lead singer is not only cute, he also has the dramatic flair, fit for a lead singer of a rock band.

Rick Astley
Here and Now
August 1
Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City

I just had to watch this show as Rick Astley is probably the only singer that both Papa and I enjoyed listening too. It was at the height of his success when both I and Papa were listening to the same album! Interestingly, his song “Never Gonna Give You Up” was played again and again during our birthdays that year (Papa’s birthday was on February 14, I followed the next day) and the song was very popular thereabouts. That was in 1988. Papa died one year later. Anyhow, aside from the maudlin sentimentality surrounding that very danceable hit, Rick also had other danceable hits that I liked, which he all sang during this show. There’s a fun portion too in the end, where our local version of him, through the very game, Roderick Paulate, made a fitting climax to the show!

Duran Duran
Red Carpet Massacre: Duran Duran Live in Manila
April 10
Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City

It was a good year for 80s fanatics like me as a sizeable contingent of 80’s-era acts descended in Manila. Although they came here to promote their latest CD, which I actually like, it was only when they started playing Rio and A View To A Kill and all their other hits, that the local crowd really warmed up and gave them a well-deserved warm reception. John Taylor did not seem to age. Simon added some pounds, like us of course, but he still sounds great!

James Blunt
April 21
Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City

I love his latest work although the audience response was so-so. He did not disappoint in the show as his strong vocals, beautiful piano playing and wild antics buoyed the sparse audience that night. Most of his songs are melancholy, and sad, but it seemed that James was not that at all. Anyhow, his voice suits his songs well, and as a live performer, he did not disappoint.

Alicia Keys
As I Am World Tour
August 5
SM Mall of Asia Exhibition Center, Pasay City

This is the second time I got to see her live, the first one was in Singapore, where she was very impressive. This was supposed to be an open air show, but it rained the whole week, the week of her show, and we were all forced to watch it indoors, at the SMEX. The venue was terrible and our seats too, although, we were supposed to be in front. Anyhow, Alicia was still a gem of a performer and her rousing encore of “No One” sent everyone to their feet!

July 29
Eastwood Central Plaza. Quezon City

The year I followed American Idol, is also the year that produced the most successful alumni – their winner, Carrie Underwood is a Grammy Best New Artist awardee, Jennifer Hudson is an Oscar Best Supporting Actress winner, and of course, there’s Daughtry, a certified pop-rock hitmaker, both singles and album-wise. As a live performer, he is just as good! It was an intimate show since the venue was probably the smallest among the shows I’ve seen this year, but it more than made up in the performance department!

Rihanna / Chris Brown
November 16
The Fort Open Field, Taguig

This would have been the worst concert of the year in my book this year, but I just reviewed the videos I took of the show and it did show how well these two young singers performed that night! They really performed up to par, although you could sense Rihanna was suffering somehow from the heat or maybe the lateness of the hour (Her set started at 10PM). It was, however, the venue that really sucked! Vic and I have already vowed never to watch a Fort concert again, after that Beyonce fiasco last year, but sometimes, I have no choice. Scheduling problems made it impossible to fly from HK to Singapore just to catch Rihanna after Billy Joel’s show in HK. Then, we’d have to fly to Macau from Singapore, just to watch Chris Brown. Looking back though, it would have been worth it, only if it were planned much earlier. The audience was just really too tired to react to Rihanna’s pleas for a much louder audience response, as it was a hot, sweltering night. The traffic too, that night, was a nightmare! We wasted 16T pesos on our tickets and we feel we did not get our money’s worth. I knew we would have spent more flying abroad just to see them, but we can do it anyway, if only I did plan for it a month earlier, tsk, tsk……Just really pissed us off that for such value of tickets, we would be treated like cattle.

Also-rans. Ne-yo. A certified hitmaker but a lousy, lousy live performer. He is the only act I have seen to intentionally cut off his encore performance because he said he was jetlagged. Doesn’t that just piss you off? However, I still love his current work and maybe will give him another chance because, judging from the audience response that night, I won’t be surprised if he comes to Manila again. Akon. I’m not quite into his songs and I was just forced to watch this show as our gal pal Charina likes him very much. I know it sounds very racist but although we were quite near the stage, it was hard to see him. He was that dark. His DJ though for that show was a blast! If only his live performing skills were up to par. Panic at the Disco. I love their show here but the competition for the Top 10 was just very very tough. Lots of screaming girls during the show. I felt like Vic and I were the only ones over 30, hahaha! Lifehouse. I love this show too, and for the same reason as Panic at the Disco, it was edged out of the Top 10! Simple Plan. I expected more from them, as Avril, their concert partners three years ago, delivered during her show on an earlier date. This time around, they paled in comparison. I felt like they were in a hurry to get things over with. Tsk, tsk…..Boys Like Girls. The only mall show I watched this year and the only one that’s free. They only sang five songs, I think, but they were all worth it! I missed Vanessa Carlton (it was Vic’s birthday and the Ayala Malls have a lousy, lousy way of distributing tickets, boo-hoo to them!!!) and Colbie Caillat. I did see her in Taratata, that French TV singing show and she was great there!

Shows to watch out for in 2009. The only confirmed ones are Sheen Easton, Fall Out Boy and Peter Cetera, because tickets are already being sold in a website. I will watch all three. The blogs around say David Cook will be here this month. I don’t know him very well, and I’m probably one of the few ones who hate his version of “Always Be My Baby”. To piss people off, I always sing Mariah’s version during karaoke with all the dududup-dudupdudum, hahaha! Red Jumpsuit Apparatus on March 5, most likely, because I loooveee rock bands!! Local acts, hmmmm…….maybe the classical world will be the ones to break into my list of 2009. I did miss Cecile Licad’s show last year, because I was in HK, tsk, tsk……..
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My Ten Favorite Songs of 2008

It is that time of year where everyone with an opinion releases his or her personal best lists, so here I go with mine, this time, my favorite songs of the year, counted backwards from 10 to 1.

My criteria, well, they had to be played many, many times on my Ipod, and most of them have their own stories surrounding on how they metamorphosed into songs that I came to love this year. They don’t have to be released as singles and some are not radio hits. Some also are personal picks from some CDs I did buy this year. So it’s an eclectic list of pop, dance, R&B, rock and a lot of sad songs. Pinoy talaga ang puso! I have placed here links to Youtube so you can check out the songs if they are unfamiliar to you.

10.  Tell You Something (Nana’s Reprise) – Alicia Keys

The story why I like this song revolves around a guy (isn’t it always?) who I met earlier this year who became some sort of crush. Yes, it is forbidden to talk about these things since my heart already belongs to someone, but for me, it was just a harmless crush on a much younger guy. At the same time this was happening, Alicia Keys released her CD, As I Am, and as I was listening to it, this song came out to the fore. Check out the lyrics – it seemed like it was talking to me to make a move on him. Of course, I did nothing, as I just viewed him as a temptation, one that we mere mortals usually meet in our lives. It was a crush that lasted from February to October and eventually just died a natural death, as most attractions do.

9. Torch – Alanis Morissette

I was browsing in an SM North EDSA record shop when I glimpsed a CD from Alanis Morissette that I did not have yet. I immediately bought it and a week later, it debuted in the Top 10 in the Billboard US charts - one of the rare times I get a CD simultaneously as the US does. In this age of downloads, that is almost an impossibility. Anyhow, I love the CD, as I do, most of her work. This is the song from the album which touched me the most. A very poignant break-up song directed obviously to her former flame, Ryan Reynolds. How I wish one of my exes would write something as sweet as this, for me, hahaha!

8. Beat Goes On – Madonna / Kanye West

Like any Madonna fan, I immediately bought a copy of Hard Candy soon as it was released earlier this year and although the song spawned the worldwide hit, 4 Minutes, this is actually the song that I most love from this CD. Although not released as a single, this would be the song I would dance to the most, if I had the chance to see her Sticky & Sweet tour. The pulsating beat, the wonderful rap from Kanye and the solid support from Pharrell makes this a saucy song if given due airplay in Manila’s clubs. Get down, beep beep

7. Shake It – Metro Station

This song was already charting in both the US and the UK charts but I just ignored it or never fully “heard” it, as there were so many more popular songs in the charts at that time. However, in November this year, the movie House Bunny, starring the comedienne, Anna Faris was shown here in Manila, and in one scene of that movie, this song was played. Then and there, my brother and I were hooked. Kaya pala, “Shake it, shake it” ang title. Better watch the movie to know why, or just check the movie title - shouldn’t be too hard to know why. We love this song so so much, it was the lead song for our first ever FABE fashion show.

6. Sabihin – Zelle

In a busy year for OPM, this was the only homegrown song that made it to the final 10. I first heard this song on the radio and I immediately asked around as to who sang it. I then bought the CD of Zelle, the first OPM CD I bought for 2008. They did not disappoint. Of course, the influences of Alanis Morissette and Evanescence are obvious, however, I love the arrangement, the voice of the singer, begging, entreating, wanting -

5. Wow – Kylie Minogue

This was my dance anthem throughout most of the year. How could it not be? It’s pop-dance at its best and I only learned later on that there were more superior singles from her X album. However, this song has been embedded so much in this year’s events that there was no way it would miss my list this year. Interestingly, when she sang this song in her HK show, the response was not so hot, maybe because not many people knew it or liked it. Nevertheless, I love it and I’m still dancing to it -

4. Make You Feel My Love – Adele

I discovered this song by accident – I was listening to some CDs at HMV, and since Adele had some hits on the UK chart at that time, I decided to give her CD a spin. Lo and behold, I hear this song, and it nearly brought me to tears. I also knew, instinctively that it was not an original, that someone in my generation sang it. I discovered later on that both Garth Brooks and Billy Joel released versions of this song in the ‘90s and that, voila, Bob Dylan wrote it and it was from his Grammy-winning Album of the Year, Time Out of Mind. No wonder the academy voted for it. They were probably weeping while listening to this song. This is mush at its best! -

3. Parle à Ma Main – Fatal Bazooka / Yelle

T’was the beginning of 2008 and this song was the most played song in my I-pod. The translation in English is (Talk to My Hand), much the same way, you would ignore somebody in English – talk to my hand. The video is equally funny and the performer here cross-dresses in the video. The song’s beat borrows a lot from Gwen Stefani’s pop sound, but still, the cheerleader context of the song and the climax of the video works really well. I admit I don’t understand all the French here since it’s very “street” French. I even suggested to Alliance that they introduce a course that teaches “street” French. As in English, the rap songs you hear have words which have different meanings, if sung or spoken in rap or in the ghetto. Whenever I felt down and out, I just check out the video of this song in Youtube and I perk up a bit -

2. Je T’Oublierai – Isabelle Boulay

This is a French song sung by a Canadian singer from Quebec – Isabelle Boulay. I discovered this song through the I-pod of my good friend, Benoit, who incidentally, is from France. In English, it translates to “I Shall Forget You”, and it’s a sad love song about – what else – a break-up and the tortured and twisted road that leads from it. The song stuck to me so much that throughout the ferry trip from Tagbilaran, Bohol to Cebu, this was the only song I was playing. Benoit, who lent me his I-pod during the beginning of the ferry ride, asked me, what song I was listening too, and I said this one. An hour later, he checked the I-pod again, and still, I was listening to it! I was so hooked on it! The more I listened to it, the more I loved it – the nuances, the simple guitar playing, the aching voice of Isabelle. If I were in a karaoke bar in Paris or Montreal, this would be the first song I will sing, and I can sing it in French!! -

1. Das Hat Die Welt Noch Nicht Gesehen – Söhne Mannheims

It is interesting to note that this year, the most overplayed songs in my I-pod were not in English. That’s quite a rarity, but not an impossibility. Just goes to show that the cliché ‘music knows no boundaries’ – holds true!

It is not always that a non-English song would end up as my favorite song for the year, and that it would be in German - that indeed, would be a rarity, since German songs are never really played in our country. You’d have to go back 24 years ago in 1984, when Nena’s 99 Luftballons, became a hit here in our shores.

I discovered this song through the European charts of Billboard magazine. What it translates to in English, je ne sais pas (I don’t know), but there is an interesting twist towards the end of the song. It is beautifully sung and I wouldn’t want it translated, as sometimes, the original version, really would sound better, as it preserves the nuances of the song in its original written word. Just listen to the song and you will know why I love it so much -

Incidentally, I’m going back to my keyboard lessons in 2009, and this would be the first song I want to learn. I want to be able to sing it by Christmas 2009! The message of the song will still stand 12 months from now!


Well, if there was a Pinoy Top 5, aside from Zelle, my other favorite OPM songs this year were, “Yugto” by Rico Blanco, “Leap of Faith” by Hale, “Grateful” by Juliana and “Captured” by Christian Bautista and Sitti. This was also the year where there was renewed interest in the Eraserheads, probably triggered by us nearly losing Ely Buendia, earlier this year. Talk about the effects of mortality. However, their music will live on in the hearts of people like me, who happen to be their batchmates in UP. I remember clearly that Buddy Zabala was in Rayadillo way back in 1988-1989 ROTC, same as me. I never saw Ely, though, around the campus. Anyhow, since they were dormers, our paths never crossed. It’s good that today’s generation of composers and bands are enjoying their music as much as we did!

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