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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Album Review: John Mayer's 'Battle Studies

John Mayer will have his first concert at the Mall of Asia grounds later today so to prepare for this show, I decided to give a listen to his latest CD, 'Battle Studies'.  I am familiar with most of his hits so if I knew maybe a little of his new material, I would enjoy the show more!  Well, two singles have been released from this album.  'Heartbreak Warfare' and 'Half of My Heart', and both reached the Top 40 in the US.  And I really like both singles, and not only are they radio-friendly, their lyrics also evoke the pain that John may have felt when he was making this CD. 

Now, I am going to go through five of my other favorite singles in this CD, which I don't think will be released anymore, and they will be presented from my most favorite and so on.

1.  Assassin - this is my Download of the Week and my most favorite song from this album.  It's not a very easy listen in the beginning since it has no sing-along chorus but I love it since the song builds up from its curious voice-over beginning to a heartfelt realization.

2.  Crossroads - this is a groovy blues song which showcases John's excellent guitar skills.  I like its heavy guitar riffs and although I'm sure it's not commercially viable as a single, it's one of the more adventurous tracks in this album

3.  War of My Life - the song sounds upbeat and is totally out of sync with the gravitas of its title.  You can also hear John sing with earnestness here 'I am in the war of my life'.  I like the contrast here, between the upbeat melody and the gloomy lyrics.

4.  Friends, Lovers Or Nothing - this could've been a good third single from this album, and the first ballad.  It's another sad song about breaking up, but I like the guitar riff in the first part of the song.  I also like how John sings the ultimatum in the chorus 'Friends, lovers or nothing' - 'there'll never be an in between so give it up'.

5.  Perfectly Lonely - this is another possible fourth single release from this album.  It sounds commercially viable, and like some of the tracks in this album, the upbeat melody contrasts with the sad nature of the song's lyrics.  Vintage John Mayer!

I've also enjoyed the other songs in this album, like 'Do You Know Me' and the funny 'Who Says'.  This is very good material from John and although most critics don't really like this work, I, on the other hand, really love it!

Download of the Week: John Mayer's - Assassin

John Mayer will have a show here in Manila tomorrow night and I've been listening to his latest album, 'Battle Studies' for the past 2 weeks, and I'm happy to report that this CD has several gems, which, although I know will not be released, are truly reflective of John's emotional state at that time when he was making this CD.  And in honor of his show tomorrow, John gets the Download of the Week with this song, Assassin, which happens to be my favorite song from 'Battle Studies'.  I love its moody nature and the woh woh part, which is really melancholy.  I haven't really read the lyrics yet, so I don't really know yet what the song is all about.  Anyhow, I love its melody and its brooding nature.

CHART PERFORMANCE: Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers' tenth studio album debuts at #3 this week at the UK charts.  This is their 9th Top 10 album in the UK.  Below is a list of their other Top 10 albums

1993 - Gold Against the Soul (#8)
1994 - The Holy Bible (#6)
1996 - Everything Must Go (#2)
1998 - This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (#1)
2001 - Know Your Enemy (#2)
2002 - Forever Delayed (#4)
2007 - Send Away the Tigers (#2)
2009 - Journal for Plague Lovers (#3)
2010 - Postcards From A Young Man (#3)


I am not sure if his band, The Killers have disbanded already, but this week, Brandon Flowers, stays at #8 in the UK album charts. His album debuted at #1 on the week of September 12.  It's on its 4th week in the Top 10.

I have heard the first single already, Crossfire, and I like it!  It looks like there are many Killers fans out there who are interested in seeing how Brandon develop his solo music career.
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SOUNDTRACK TO 'FUNNY PEOPLE: Warren Zevon's 'Keep Me In Your Heart'

I was watching this Adam Sandler movie, 'Funny People' and I chanced upon this beautiful song - and I discovered that it was Warren Zevon's 'Keep Me In Your Heart'.

I don't remember now what scene they played this but since the story talks about a dying person, it is just fitting that they play this poignant song.

Remembering Kavana - Pop's Pretty Boy in the Late 90's

He exploded into the scene in the late 90s and I remember the station 99.5RT to play his songs.  Some of his songs even went to #1 here - at least in radio airplay.  The video below is for the song 'Will You Wait For Me'.  His voice here is so boyish and his pics too are twinkie-hot!!  No wonder he was embraced fully by a lot of gay men!  I wasn't following the UK charts during that time so I don't really know which of his songs reached #1 or the Top 10. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

OPM Hit Spotlight: Itchyworms 'Suplado Ka Pala Sa Personal'

I sooooo love this song! In English, it translates to 'You're A Snob in Person' - and it talks about a famous maybe fictitious lead singer of a popular band who turns out to be a snob in person. The song is written in first person, so the one complaining says that when that lead singer was not yet famous, he or she used to be nice and friendly, but changed, when he or she became famous. In the video though, the lead singer is portrayed as a 'he'. I love the tongue-in-cheek treatment of the song and the hilarious video that goes with it. The band's real lead singer had to transform himself into different disguises in this video - from a man to a woman and he does each sketch wonderfully!

OPM Hit Spotlight: Kjwan - Meron Ba

This song from Kjwan entitled Meron Ba, was a bit of a slow burn for me but it soon became a favorite of mine because of its intriguing guitar riffs and equally intriguing lyrics! Too bad, I wasn't able to vote for it when it was still trying to peak.  Anyhow, it's now on my active Ipod playlist and I am as curious as ever to know how the band follows this up.  For now, I'll just enjoy their latest release!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Memorable Movie Music from 'Funny People'

I was watching this Adam Sandler movie entitled 'Funny People' and I was so touched by this song from Warren Zevon called 'Keep Me in Your Heart'.  I actually don't exactly remember anymore where this was played, all I remember was when I heard it, I immediately wrote the chorus lyrics done.  It's good that this was exactly the title of the song.  The lyrics of the song are quite moving and perfectly fits what Adam Sandler's character was going through in the movie. 

Chart Performance: Robert Plant

Robert Plant's 9th studio album, 'Band of Joy', slips from #3 to #5 this week in the UK charts.  All in all, this is Robert's 9th Top 10 album in the UK, outside of Led Zeppelin.  Below is a listing of his other Top 10 albums -

1982 - Pictures At Eleven (#2)
1988 - Now and Zen (#10)
1993 - Fate of Nations (#6)
1994 - No Quarter (with Jimmy Page) (#7)
1998 - Walking Into Clarksdale (with Jimmy Page) (#3)
2005 - Mighty Rearranger (#5)
2007 - Raising Sands (with Alison Krauss) (#2)
2010 - Band of Joy (#3)

This is Robert's follow up to his Grammy-winning album 'Raising Sands'.  Another noteworthy achievement is that this is a 28 year stretch for Robert, from his first Top 10 album in 1982 to this one.  And that's excluding the earlier Top 10 work he's had for his band.  Impressive longevity in this very fickle business!

I don't think I'll get a copy of this CD since I'm not really familiar with his music. I am actually more interested in getting a copy of his Grammy-winning album, since I'm quite a big fan of Alison Krauss.  I was able to see their performance during the Grammy telecast and you could really see the music establishment's adulation for this guy!
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Chart Performance: The XX

The xx is a trio band from London who won the 2010 Mercury Prize.  Their first album XX, peaked at #3 while this week, their latest album, Coexist debuts at #1 in the UK charts.  

It also debuts at #5 in the US.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Concert Review: Cerebral Rock Show with Coldplay

I had a little dose of cerebral British rock tonight, as Chris Martin along with his band Coldplay, played a lean and tight set to a very enthusiastic Hong Kong crowd. Frankly, we did not have the best of seats, as I was still unfamiliar with the venue when I bought the tickets, but anyhow, I did love the songs that Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow chose to perform for their band's Twisted Logic world tour.

It was just the right mix of the old hits, with some of my favorite songs in A Rush of Blood to the Head, as well as all the latest hits from their latest CD X & Y. I did not share the same enthusiasm with the rest of tonight's crowd for Trouble, Yellow or In My Place, which were all well applauded. Instead, I regaled at the band's live version of some of their seminal songs in A Rush of Blood to the Head, like Clocks, Politik and God Put A Smile on My Face. However, I did surprise myself as I can actually sing along to most of the songs they played that night, and only then did I realize that I usually played their CDs when I work, and those lyrics may have subliminally entered my brain, thus turning their live performance tonight, into something memorable for me.

One thing I learned though tonight, is that Mr. Paltrow, sings an octave higher than I do, when I sing along to their songs. Example, when he did, Speed of Sound, wherein I knew the lyrics very well, I could not sing out loud with him in the chorus. But I did have a lot of fun, since like Bon Jovi, Coldplay has many "sing-along with me - type of songs", like Yellow, In My Place, and of course, their live anthem, Fix You. I discovered to my dismay, that I could not reach the notes for "Life will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you". However, I did not want to sing an octave lower, and just like Apple Martin's Dad, I strained my neck veins to reach the notes so as to make my voice be heard, along with thousands of wannabee singers tonight!

If you're a fan of the band, best to catch them if they travel near your place, for they are very good to hear live. The accompanying light show to some of their songs, served to heighten the drama, especially in the curious ways that their songs are arranged. I believe Chris Martin learned from the "David Foster" School of Arranging Music - wherein he starts a song very sparingly, and slowly builds it up to reach a loud crescendo towards the middle and end of the song. To illustrate, listen to Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You - which Foster produced and then listen to a Coldplay CD, and most often than not, almost half of the songs there are arranged the "David Foster" way. Oh well, that's just my observation and of course, musicians and composers always feed on each other's vibe and influence, so it is not surprising.

As a sidetrack, if you are a budding producer today, best to listen to Nelly Furtado's new CD Loose and learn from Timbaland. This album will surely win a Grammy next year as it brings hip hop music to another level. Our local guys like Andrew E or Gary Valenciano, should listen as to how these guys have helped shape and evolve the sound of today's hip hop. Laos na ang "yo yo man" type of sound. That is so early 90's. Listen to Nelly Furtado as she chews on Maneater or Promiscuous and I just want to drool at the incredible level of creativity this guy possesses. To the uninitiated, Timbaland created the sound of Destiny's Child, Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, and you will understand the genius of this guy..

Coldplay, is of course, a Grammy favorite, and deservedly so. They are not the most charismatic of performers, and sometimes, Chris Martin's voice fails him in a live set, but in my opinion, along with Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Jack White (another genius of a producer - White Stripes, Emmylou Harris), they are the future of rock, and they will continue to help the sound of rock evolve through exciting phases.

We trudged home very tired, as we stood on our seats the whole one and a half hours. My voice was a bit hoarse from all the singing and shouting, but it was well worth it. From our seats, we could barely see Chris' flailing arms since the stage was not very high, and there was no big video screen (boo-hoo!), anyhow, the choice of songs, the strong live back-up and the dazzling light show, more than compensated for the shortcomings.
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Concert Review: An Extravagant Tale to Tell - Madonna's Confessions Tour

You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Pay somewhere between 80 pounds (8T pesos) and 160 pounds (16T pesos), however, and you get horses."

- David Smyth, Evening Standard

And Madonna, of course. Writhing, dangling herself, shimmying like crazy and coming up with the goods to make sure her harem of lapdogs are pleased and satisfied. And very satisfied were Vic and I, giddy, excited, very pleased that Madonna paid us back very well!

Well, we had two major bloopers though. First, Vic forgot to bring cash, enough cash to buy lots of souvenirs of the show. It turned out that none of the cash ATMs at Wembley Arena read "foreign" cards. So be warned! If you are catching a show at Wembley, their ATMs and credit card readers don't accept "foreign" cards, maybe unless it's AMX (if you're American). Oh well, we were only able to buy a few shirts, posters and souvenir program with the cash we got. I had to clean out my wallet just to get all of them, only to find I had extra cash but in US dollars - and no money changer in sight. Oh well, next concert, I'll make sure we have enough money to buy the souvenirs. Second, Vic's camera had almost full memory. It turned out he left the blank cartridges in the hotel. There goes my videos!! Anyway, we were able to get some pictures of the show and got videos of the opening number and her song "Sorry" which our cousin requested. Otherwise, we could've taken more if the cartridge was empty. Lesson, bring an extra camera with EMPTY cartridges. Oh well, maybe it was destined to happen.

Other than those mishaps, it was wonderful to watch her perform again. This time, our seats were fabulous! We were able to get side tickets very near the stage. Also, as we were walking to our seats, we bumped into Duncan James (the cute guy in Blue). Apparently, we were in the same section, and Vic, after seeing him, couldn't contain himself and since we whisked past their group, he mumbled, feeling bad we did not stop and ask for pictures. Oh well, I should've taken the courage because Vic never does. I have to do the dirty work always, LOL! "Excuse me Mr. James, can we have a picture of you?" - imagine a big old bloke like me, asking a 20-something heartthrob, along with his four strapping mates, asking for a picture with him! Oh well, deep inside me just says, who cares, just say, "I'm Japanese!" and go clicking away! Anyway, as Edina of Absolutely Fabulous says, "Nobody here knows you anyway, and you'll most likely never see them again for the rest of your life!"

There were two big surprises, logistically. One, Wembley Arena is smaller than Araneta Coliseum. It is even smaller than the Asiaworld Arena here in HK. It was packed though, and even with those expensive tickets, Madonna had enough well-heeled fans crazy enough to use their credit to pay to watch her show! Second surprise, the arena had NO airconditioning! It's the height of summer in London, and no airconditioning inside. Madonna commented later on in the show, "I knew I was already in London when I go asking for airconditioning and they say, we have none." She later apologized for the heat, "I'm hot too!". Well, the heat did not dampen the spirits of her fans though, as professional as she is, hot or not, the show went on grandly.

It was safe to say that one-third of the audience was gay (or lesbian), mostly the ones who knew her in the 80's. Just like her last show, it was like one big high school reunion! Of course, there were many pretty young things too, like Duncan James, who were familiar with her new material, which consisted about 70% of her show. It was like the Confessions on a Dance Floor CD, played live! Beside me was a gay Brazilian, complete with their country's flag. (I always notice that the Brazilians here in London are brazenly patriotic, either carrying a Brazilian flag, or wearing a flag patch on their shirt. Guys, the World Cup ended last month, it's time to blend now!) And beside Vic, was a gay couple speaking a Nordic language. Of course, there were the straight women, bringing their husbands along, making sure their hubbies were dressed appropriately for the occasion. Two seats away from me was this guy who was wearing white pants, a beautiful belt, a tucked in neat shirt, and if he were not snogging the chick beside him, I would've thought he was gay! Maybe his girlfriend said to him, "Honey, you have to look neat and fabulous tonight, to blend in. This is not a football game, ok?" And he looked fabulous! Oh well, kisses to these sweet straight men who tagged along with their wifeys, and although I noticed most of them did not know Madonna's new material, they did stand on their feet for old hits like "Like A Virgin", "Live to Tell", "La Isla Bonita" and "Lucky Star". Such troopers, you fellas! I should know, the row above us were all straight couples, and I was observing the blokes throughout the show. They got kisses from their wifeys when they showed they were having a good time too. (Sigh!) - Treading the intricacies of the relationships tightrope!

Madonna was also kind to her fans that night. Kind, because she made sure, many in the audience can see her closely. Aside from the main stage, she fashioned out a long catwalk that ended in a mini-stage, halfway across the front section. And our seats were near the end of that mini-stage, allowing us to see Madonna up close during most of the show. She also extended the stage on both the left and right side, and put it on the same level as the risers on both sides, making sure, those who paid on the left and right, can get good pictures and videos of her performance. Also, the entrance was magnificent. If you are still going to watch the show, skip this part. Anyhow, there is a big orb at the ceiling at the beginning of the show, and as the show starts, it slowly descends. As it reaches the bottom, this big dancing-lights orb, opens to reveal a flower, and inside that flower, is, Madonna, as she sings her first song amidst the wild cheers! We got it on video and I can't stop playing it. Grand entrances are a must for pop shows, and Madonna her own very well.

I wouldn't describe the whole show anymore as you will soon get it on DVD anyway, soon, but there were three numbers which I particularly loved. Obviously, the opening number was amazing, to say the least. Second, was when she rested, after dancing with abandon, Like It Or Not. During that rest period, she sang Drowned World which to me, is my most favorite song of hers. It was arranged sparingly this time, which made it more beautiful and poignant to hear. The performance of that song actually made it for me for that show. I didn't mind all the special effects. It was expected, after paying US$300 for each ticket. But it was the slow, simple rendition of that song that moved me, ironically. Of course, nothing beats the performance of the last song, Hung Up. I don't actually quite like this song, but interestingly, that night, maybe because of the incredible energy from the audience, and the expected 70's motif and choreography, I enjoyed dancing to it, as it was remixed appropriate for a grand exit. Madonna does not do encores anymore, and as the last note was played, the phrase "Have you confessed lately" came on the screen.

Oh, about the controversy about the cross and the cruficixion - I think it's old hat and an old trick from her. That trick is so 80's and does not shock me anymore. What shocks me now is that many gay boys here wear rosaries on their neck - as a fashion accessory! I couldn't quite get myself to snog someone who is wearing that on his neck. There's something about the Virgin Mary that can totally take out your libido down the drain. "I know you're real hot and cute but I can't think of dirty thoughts with that around your neck. Can you not wear that anymore please, especially when Catholics are around." Oh well, I heard it also became hip in Manila because Manny Pacquiao wore it. I think Manny's reason for wearing it was more of a talisman-like motivation. Here in London, it is just a fashion accessory. That's why it disturbs me a bit.

Also, another shocking revelation - not related to Madonna's show. Many of the white guys were afraid to hit on Vic and I, because they thought we were Muslims. Many Asians in the UK are from Malaysia, which is largely Muslim, so they see the color of our skin, and automatically, they think we're Muslim. This, from a cute American guy, who stripped on stage. We cornered him after the show for some dancing. Oh well, maybe next time, I should wear an "I'm a Catholic" shirt. That should effectively drive everyone away!

Political images were plenty in the show. Madonna even said "I go to Texas to suck George Bush's dick" - in her I Love New York song. Well, Madonna, middle, rural America doesn't hear or listen to you, so the US will always be at war for the next few years, and more of this rural boys will die, vainly, in my opinion, fighting an enemy that will continue to hate the US and what it stands for, much to consternation of peace-loving Americans. A wish for peace was a recurrent theme in her last show, when she sang John Lennon's Imagine. Sadly, two years onwards, nothing has changed.

But Corporation Madonna moves on, always on the lookout for her next reinvention.

Madonna is turning 48 this month! Are we, her fans, that old? And Rocco Ritchie turned 6 last month. Whew! How time flies!

CONCERT REVIEW: Christina Aguilera Ain't Dirrty No More

I just arrived from Singapore today, quite tired but very satisfied. Vic and I watched Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics show last night, one of the first three legs of Asian cities, that we are watching - Hong Kong is on Tuesday, Manila on Friday.

Well, I will try not to give too much away lest some of you will watch the Friday show here. First suggestion, is that you listen to her Back to Basics album before going to the show. As my baby Alberto would say, "You have to listen to the opera recording before watching the opera itself, so you can enjoy it." Same applies for pop concerts, especially this one. One reason why I enjoyed her show so much was that I was quite familiar already with the material in that album, and it's really a different Christina she is projecting here - very classy, very sassy, quite sexy, quite a polished act. In my opinion, ever since Madonna upped the ante with her Confessions Tour, the pressure to produce a really good pop concert has become greater, even if the actual performer can sing, and sing well.

Second, if you're harking back to her innocent "What A Girl Want Days", forget about it. I believe Christina hated that period of her career, (although it made her a star), and completely revamped the arrangement of the hits during that period in her concert. I would still pine for the pop arrangements, but I think she makes a clear statement here that her cutesy, pop music days are way, way over. Third, her live show really breathes life to her album. When I heard her album, I found it a bit uneven since there was so much good material lumped in with many ideas she was trying to experiment with. (Her Back to Basics album is composed of two CDs, so quite a lot of material to get through in one evening.) What her live show did was to highlight the songs that she really liked, and she performed them superbly, and the quality of her voice, the live band, the choreography - all served to accentuate the sounds of her influences and push her forward as a serious pop artist. Fourth, I think she learned a lot from the Madonna "How to Put Up a Pop Concert" handbook. The choreography was quite interesting and a joy to watch, and it was made more impressive because she has the voice to match the moves. What I feel she has done here was to stamp her 20's inspired musical arrangements and bring the audience back to that exact period where heavy beats predominant in today's hip hop tunes are given more style and rhythm.

My favorite part, well, I always loved her "Dirrty" phase, and in this show she did not disappoint. The arrangements for "Dirrty" and "Fighter" were not changed from the original, and, except for some wardrobe tweaks (this is supposed to be a 20's themed-live show, remember?), the performance level for both songs were quite exhilarating. I loved the way she did "Fighter", confetti was already on my mouth and my hair, and she had some really nice-looking dancers (male, mind you my dears) who were strutting their stuff in that song.

By the way, check out the Cavalli clothes, hmmmm......for someone short, she looked quite leggy and accentuated her curves very well (up there and down there as well), a naughty designer for a naughty performer - the partnership works!

I just heard she was pregnant but I'm not quite sure if it's true. If it were, if she were my girlfriend, I would be petrified since with a baby on the way, I wouldn't let her work too hard especially on her first trimester. Oh well, I hope the rumor is not true, because as we Filipinos say, "bigay na bigay talaga siya sa show" - in terms of singing and the dancing and wawa naman ang baby. And worried also about her getting too tired since it's a lot of cities to go to. Hay, just wondering, now that I fully understand already what goes through when a woman gets pregnant especially on the first trimester.

I'm looking forward to her HK show on Tuesday. Let's see how the HK Chinese crowd reacts. The Singapore reception was very warm, but I believe the Manila crowd will be more wild and we can sing way way much better than anyone in Asia, so prepare to sing along to "Hurt". The Singapore crowd also loved "Candyman" - I did too! Cute choreography too!
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CONCERT REVIEW: Supafest in Manila - Sean Kingston and Kelly Rowland

September 18, 2010.  It was actually the perfect day to have an outdoor concert at the MOA Concert Grounds.  The wind was balmy and strong, the crowd was enough but not too full, and the logistics and arrangement of the stage and the video walls, perfect!  There was a half moon in the sky and almost no stars but that did not deter the hiphop stars on the stage from doing their sets the best they could. 

Imagine having four global hiphop stars on one stage for one night!  Weren't we lucky!! 

Sean Kingston opened the show with his hit 'Me Love' and proceeded to do several of his hits one after another.  The kid doesn't really have a powerful voice but still, since his songs were all bouncy anyway, it kept the crowd on its feet.  My personal favorite was 'Eenie Meenie' because I completely forgot that he was also in this song. I actually did not even recognize it when he sang the first few lines of the song.  Another favorite moment of mine was when he sang his new single, 'Letting Go (Dutty Love)'.  This was Sean's second time in Manila, and this time, on a real concert stage and thousands in the audience.

Kelly Rowland came next and she looked spectacular in a blue dress that billowed with the wind!  And unsurprisingly, Miss Kelly's pipes were very very strong!  Her rendition of 'Dilemma' got the audience to sing along with her.  She also did a set of Destiny's Child songs which was bit harang since she only did snippets of it.  I liked her opening song though, 'Commander' and it has in a way, cemented her reputation now as a dance diva!  The audience though, loved her 'Emotions'-'How Deep Is Your Love' medley where she asked a guy in orange to go upstage so she could sing those songs to him.  Kelly was not shy at all and was touchy feely and it was great too that she sang those songs with her crystal clear voice.  Goosebumps moment!  Her finale number was my personal favorite 'When Love Takes Over' and I guess it showed who were gay or who were dance club habitues as we were the only ones really dancing to the song.  I guess it did not receive much airplay on Philippine radio.  I love it too that she sang a portion of 'Clocks' towards the end - I am, like Miss Kelly - a big Coldplay fan!  Alas, we were but a few only that night. 

Unfortunately, I did not find any uploaded Kelly Rowland video from that night! How horrible!  So anyway, I got the closest to it, her live version of 'Commander', which was her opening song here in Manila, and in Adelaide, Australia as well, months ago.  Her Manila version though had no dancers and she was in an arresting light blue dress, not in an army-inspired get-up.

CONCERT REVIEW: Supafest in Manila (Part 2) - T-pain and Flo Rida

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Favorite OPM Song of the Week: Julianne Tarroja's - Liwanag

Breathy, fluid, ethereal - these words describe Julianne Tarroja's new single, Liwanag, which I love very much!  I'm not sure if this comes with a new album but I'm surely going to get a copy of her album.  I love her arrangement, and the way her voice floats into the song, expresssing the beautiful lyrics. The video is perfect with those clouds and that semblance of flying. Enjoy her video here -

CONCERT REVIEW: Celine Dion's Powerful Performance in Macau

Finally, I got to see Celine Dion live last night at The Venetian in Macau! She did a series of shows in Las Vegas for the longest time, but we never got around to flying there. Anyhow, thanks to her world tour, Macau was the nearest place to Manila she came too.

It's a bit sad that with the flurry of foreign acts coming to Manila, no one got Celine. I was just wondering why no one thought her economically feasible. The Macau show was sold out and I believe 80% of the audience were not even local Macanese! And the show would have been a veritable sing-along, as Filipinos love most of her songs. Tsk...tsk...

Well, we were billeted in HK and not in Macau this weekend, so we had to take the ferry. There is not much to do in Macau if you don't gamble, and I've already visited all their sites in previous trips. Shopping is also not that great so we thought of just going there for the show. What surprised me was the long long long lines in the immigration! This was not like this just a year ago. The Macau Immigration has to do something to speed things up! I lined up for 75 minutes - so it was such a drag - since we were all dressed up to party too! I could just imagine the ladies in their high heels!!! I discovered later on that most of the people in line also went to the show! Anyway, the officers were really expediting things up - and worse - we added to the already full Saturday gambling crowd!

I have been last in Macau just June of last year, and in that short span, so many buildings have sprouted up! Even the Cotai strip in Taipa island is already fascinating to see! I have read that Macau has already outstripped Las Vegas in terms of income, maybe because many Chinese gamble. You should see them gamble - really a sad sight!! I know each one of us has an addiction - mine maybe sex with goodlooking men and eating chocolates - but to see these guys squander good money on a whim - is so scary to see. The minimum bet before in Sands was HKD1000 (that's 5 thousand pesos to you and me). If I had a HKD1000, I'd add another HKD1000 and get that Prada wallet. Or finance a grade school kid's education. I have actually never bet in my life, hahaha, at least with that Macau or Las Vegas type of gambling. Papa was a card gambler and he even lost a house because of it. So I know it's in my blood to gamble badly, so I avoid it like a plague. It's so hard to pay for a house, and just to lose it in a card game - really stupid!!

Going to the Venetian, or any casino of your choice - Wynn, Sands, MGM - is very easy. Tawid ka lang sa underpass (their subway underpass daw) and on the other side are the buses that will bring you to those places. There are also buses on the left pero for Mandarin ata yun. But the Venetian is the place to go right now, gauging from the neverending queue for their buses.

The Venetian in Macau is impressive - in a gaudy kind of way. I think this is how Las Vegas is too! Beautiful, over-the-top, everyone, polite, helpful, and on to your money!!! The Venetian Arena is like the Araneta Coliseum but with a bad sound system. I couldn't sing along with Celine because if I did, no one would hear her. The sound system was THAT bad!! Usually, in concerts, I can sing out loud to my heart's content without my seatmate complaining since the volume is usually defeaning. Oh well, the show was still great and Celine really gave a good show! I couldn't be too loud in cheering too because the largely Chinese Macau crowd was very polite, hahaha! Sayang nga talaga, kung sa Pinas pa 'to, masaya sana.

Oh well, high points for me in the show - when she did "I'm Your Angel", and when she did "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" and "Because You Loved Me" back-to-back. Her voice was in top form and what you hear in the CD is what you hear here. When she does acapella, it gives you incredible goosebumps!! My favorite part of the show was "River Deep, Mountain High" - her version of Tina Turner's classic! Though not much of a dancer, Celine moved naturally as she only can to the grooves of her songs. She did four songs from her latest "Taking Chances" album, which is also the title of her world tour. My favorite among them was "Shadow of Love". This should be released as a single. She also did a French song - "Pour que te m'aime encore" - which I think means - For that you love me again - my French is still poor, hahaha! Of course, her encore was THAT Titanic song. I don't really like it, but anyway, the other 99% of the audience surely did as it had the loudest cheer of the night, hahaha!

I wished I watched Beyonce here at the Venetian. The Globe people tortured 50000 Filipinos watching Beyonce in a sorry venue like the Fort. The Venetian is classy, cool and you can wear fabulous clothes because you are in a fabulous setting. Oh well, I'm just happy that most of the live shows now are done in the Araneta - where they should be!!!

I bought a lot of Celine Dion souvenir shirts! I am addicted to tour shirts. I have so many! We even got a program. We were so pathetic!! But who cares? Other people get their kicks in some other ways, we get ours through these. I remember the time I bought a Gwen Stefani doll in her HK show, and this lady was a bit amused that a big guy like me was carrying a doll. I wanted to say to her, "Oh, you should see the large adult-size doll I have in my bed. They are perfect toys before I go to sleep, (wink, wink!)".

Well, we will have another dose of Celine in Shanghai in April. Yes, we cannot get enough of her!! This time, I will buy the DVD of her concert in Las Vegas, because her song selection is almost similar. Just want to relive the wondeful moments of her Macau show and prep me up for her Shanghai one. Maybe the only downside to this show was that she did not sing many of her hits. No "Beauty and the Beast", no "A New Day", no "That's the Way it is" (why oh why Celine!!!) or "Nothing Broken But My Heart" (my most favorite song of hers!!! - understandable because it was an obscure 1992 hit but nevertheless, very special to me). Anyway, maybe in her next tour, whenever that may be.
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Download of the Week: Jay Sean -'All Or Nothing'

Jay Sean is performing here in Manila this Friday.  Already a certified hit maker, even here, I am looking forward to the show because as I was listening to his 'All Or Nothing' CD, I found out that the guy has produced an excellent pop album!  His collaborations have helped catapult him into the spotlight but his CD also contains some gems which I enjoy. 

Concert Review: Two Davids Equals A Goliath of A Show! The David Archuleta Segment‏

As usual, I almost missed the first song, and I did want to change my SD card which was not working but I decided to just enter the venue since it was almost 8:30PM already. Thankfully, I made the right decision! Ten minutes later, the first David (Archie - the other David called him that) came out, and started the show with "Touch My Hand". I knew he would open with that song. It was the perfect opening song - upbeat, not quite famous, second song on his CD, just enough to keep the crowd excited! (I was very excited hahaha!) (And it was a sizeable crowd - 40,000 people strong!)

Now, the ironic thing is, I don't even know these guys! Meaning, during their run, I did not follow the competition. The last AI I religiously followed was when Taylor Hicks won. After that, I just lost interest. I think I got the raw end of the deal and I'll tell you why.

Let me begin with David Archuleta.  His voice was incredibly clear, like a man-child. Moreover, he was as cute as a button, the perfect boyfriend for anyone's daughter. His voice tonight was exhilarating to say the least! I know his CD by heart and he sang each song with fantastic clarity. 

Well, he did avoid some high notes though, understandably, because touring can be unforgiving on the voice of the singer, and David A. had to fly thousands of miles to get here, so I forgive him. His set was very, very solid though! He sang all the strong songs from his CD - including all my favorites - "Touch My Hand" and "My Hands". 

There were several highlights from his set which I really loved. First, was his version of "A Thousand Miles" - that monster hit by Vanessa Carlton. He played it on keyboards, and his rendition was intentionally slowed down by I think, half a beat, except of course, for the famous first few notes, which sent the whole audience roaring! I love this song too and I wished this was the one he included in his CD and not Angels. I'll explain why later. I loved his rendition, the pacing was perfect and he captured the longing the song intended to convey. Second highlight was his own incredible incredulity at the huge turnout to his show! I too, was surprised! I bought my tickets today and all the good ones were sold out! Don't ask me where I was but I had to eat my pride and I'm glad I did (hahaha!) I know many people watch AI but not this many! Final highlight for me - I loved his version of "To Be With You". In the CD, it's a duet and in this show, he sang with his keyboardist, and the result was stunning! It reminded me of that beautiful duet of Bruce Hornsby and Shawn Colvin "The Lost Soul". The melancholic arrangement, the sound of the violin (the girl sang and played the violin!), David on the keyboard - everything gelled perfectly. There was actually no lowdown on his set. It was quick (just under an hour), fast-paced and well-executed. He did sing Angels, but I'd still go for Robbie Williams' version. I really love this song since it brings back a lot of London memories, so hearing a very young man sing it, didn't quite work for me. I really think this song is about heartbreak and loss, so although technically, David A.'s version is very good, even tonight's live version, I think he has to have his heart broken for real, for him to be able to sing this truly. If you listen to his version, the angel he may be talking about could be his mother. Oh well.....

After some fireworks and some endless poker advertisements, it was David Cook's turn to impress. He opened with a decidedly slow-paced version of "The World I Know" by Collective Soul which I think did not quite warm up the crowd. (I was impressed though with the way he sang it.)

In my opinion, it took him sometime to warm up everyone. I guess, everyone was a bit tired too (this was an outdoors show), although his playlist, especially his choice of first few songs did not help. He sang three songs which were all new to our ears. I should know, I listened to his CD thoroughly. And he also admitted it. I think it was very self-indulgent of him to do that and he paid the price. It's ok to sing new songs if it's a US city. He lives in the US anyway and can tour there every year - if he wants. He can't come to Manila every year just to sample his new songs. So for exotic places like ours, artists are well-advised to tweak their repertoire to suit the audience - something which the fantastic Natalie Cole did on her show last March. (Her US shows were 90% jazz, but here, she sang all her pop hits - which sent the crowd teary-eyed). Anyway, other than that misstep, he is impressive as a vocalist. His voice reminds me of Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, don't you think?

I always could imagine him suddenly sing, "The Pretender", an FF song which could fit him to a T. I noticed that the crowd did not quite dig his heavy rock style. They did love "Always Be My Baby" though. That was the climax of his show, and it was his fifth song, or thereabouts. I still love Mariah's version, since that song is quite memorable to me - my 1995 sojourn in Butuan - the CD containing that song was my antidote to loneliness when I was in the wilderness, hahaha!

Anyhow, one talent of Mr. Cook is his uncanny ability to stamp his personality on a song that he remakes. And that's illustrated in the best highlight, at least for me, of his set. He sang "Little Lies" by Fleetwood Mac, a song, I love so much, I was quite shocked when he sang it. I think I was the only one in the audience who sang it so loud, hahaha - "Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies". His version? - heavy, intentionally heavy on the guitars and the beat, just the way he wanted it to be, of course, without losing the playfulness of the original. I love his live version and if he does release it as a single, I would buy it. It's that good - and original too! Now I know why he won, hahaha! (I will vote for David A though if I could vote, hahaha, since I'm more of a pop meister).

Another higlight was his impressive live rendition of his admittedly, heaviest track on his CD, a song entitled "Bar-ba-sol" . It was impressive how he matched the recorded one and how clear his voice and the lyrics were! Even the nuances were all there! Finally, I also liked, "Come Back to Me". I am really beginning to like this song. The lyrics are beautiful. This should have been a single, don't you think? Well, he did not sing "Time of My Life" and his "Light On" was just ok. He did pander to the audience, letting them touch him (lucky devils! hahaha!) and playing with their cell phones. He worked the crowd like a pro (I guess all those weeks competing at AI really helps!)

So whose set did I like more? I'd say David A.'s because I love his songs more and they're more of the sing-along variety. David Cook got Rob Cavallo to produce his CD, and Rob, if I remember correctly, produced "Iris" and that Alanis song, "Uninvited", so David C. was in good hands. His CD though sounds like an earlier version of the Foo Fighters with some pop sounding songs included. However, I think the work of these two guys was more solid than Daughtry, and I hazard the opinion that their performance tonight was much better than Daughtry's last year. Oh well, just my opinion.

No pictures though, sorry guys (My SD card was not working). Just check out Youtube. A gazillion kids were recording happily and snapping happily all throughout the show. Me, I was the one singing along, trying to blend my voice as closely as possible to David A., and just plain lipsynching with the gravely voice of David C. Definitely two Davids who gave a Goliath of a show!