IISA: Danao, Dancel, and Dumas take on a bigger stage
It was raining hard on the night of IISA, the 3D concert, and while it may have made the commute to the KIA theater in Cubao that much more challenging, it was just as well.
After all there’s nothing quite like rainy weather to put people in a quiet, introspective mood – which just happens to be the perfect mood to be in to truly soak up the music of Johnoy Danao, Ebe Dancel, and Bullet Dumas.
The 3 artists came together again on June 9 for another show, this time on a much bigger scale than they’ve ever played together before. True enough, IISA came with the works: dazzling lights, videos in between each set, a full band, and the Manila String Machine Orchestra adding a grandness to the trio’s well-loved music.
After an opening set by Reese Lansangan, the orchestra did ran through some of Johnoy, Ebe, and Bullet’s songs orchestra-style – and then the trio emerged to open with their version of “Burnout,” which has become so well-loved in recent years that it may just eclipse the original version by Ebe’s ex-band Sugarfree.
After performing together, Ebe and Bullet broke off to give Johnoy the spotlight, and he opened his segment with a performance of “Kahit Na,” a song by his old band, Bridge.
He then proceeded to perform his other originals, including “Malayang Bilanggo,” “Bakuran,” and “Dapithapon,” as well as “Right Time,” a song he wrote with his wife, Grace. Towards the end of the set, he called on Kakoy Legaspi, his former-collaborator, to play 3 more songs with him before he ended.
With his easy, self-effacing manner, Johnoy played as if to a small crowd gathered close to him at a coffee shop or dive bar. His quips in between songs – ever so slightly awkward – and the way he remarked, “ang laki ng stage (the stage is huge),” made him all the more relatable.
One may wonder how one guy with a guitar can fill a huge space without resorting to any sort of showmanship or theatrics. In Johnoy’s case, it was a matter of timing no doubt, meticulousy planned by the man himself.
Whenever things would get too mellow, the orchestra would chime in at just the right moments, giving Johnoy’s set exactly the right amount of spectacle it needed. And then, of course, there is Johnoy’s deep, rich voice, which anchored the set all throughout.
After Johnoy, it was Bullet’s turn to take the stage – and where Johnoy’s segment was low-key and contemplative, Bullet’s was energetic and whimsical – much like the artist himself.
There were a bit more theatrics here – the lights were more colorful, and they moved more onstage – and it was apparent as soon as Bullet launched into his opening song, “Limguhit,” followed by “Tugtog,” and “Put to Waste,” which he later explains is a song he wrote for his students – though it may sound like a brokenhearted love song.
After that he played “Wl k n” which really means “Wala ka na” but without the vowels “para millennial” – a new song of Bullet’s that he decided to introduce to fans that night.
The song is every bit a Bullet Dumas song with its playful lyrics, soaring vocals, offbeat rhythms, and scatting – and certainly left a lot of audience members excited for its release.
Bullet also performed “Hain ka,” a song in his native Waray-waray, for which two of the top ballerinas in the country, the Adea sisters Candice and Carissa, came onstage to dance.
In itself, the performance was captivating – but even more so when Bullet explained afterwards that the song is a eulogy for a friend of his who passed away, and that one of the lines in the songs is dedicated to the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Bullet is from Leyte, one of the areas hit hardest by the storm).
He ended his set with a rather dramatic performance of his song “Umpisa,” which started out with a violin solo by his partner, Janine Samaniego.
As arguably the most high-profile member of the group, it was no surprise that Ebe played last, starting his set with “Kwarto,” before playing “Lakambini” and “Huwag Ka Nang Umiyak.”
Compared to Johnoy and Bullet, Ebe hardly did any talking in between songs, so there were just a lot of feels all over the place (his music is of the passionate love song category, after all) and little time to recover from them – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
When Ebe did speak, he said quite poignant things – for instance, that he was wearing his father’s leather shoes that night before he played “Kasayaw,” a song inspired by his dancer mother. He also asked the audience to sing with him on “Tulog Na,” saying that he decided they would be his guest stars for that night.
If anyone was wistful that night, it was the audience for sure (because how can you not be wistful after listening to the love songs you grew up on as a child), but it was also Ebe, who, towards the end of his set, asked for the lights to be turned on the audience so he could savor the moment and look at them.
After Ebe’s set, Johnoy and Bullet came back on stage, and the three played their final song for the night, a cover of “Handog,” an OPM classic by Florante.
After they opened with Burnout, one would think they would go for a jugular and play an equally stirring song, perhaps something more pop-culture famous – so the choice of “Handog” did feel rather anti-climactic.
In any case, the trio’s musicality cannot be denied. Coupled with a slideshow of 3D’s photos through the years, the whole number was cheesy enough to make a satisfying ending to a full several hours of listening to some of the best artists OPM can boast of at the moment.
That said, the charm of 3D – individually, and together – will always be the intimacy of their music and their ability to create a palpable connection with the audience.
So while the KIA theater’s big stage, the bright lights, and the grandeur of an orchestra made IISA worth the watch, Johnoy, Ebe, and Bullet are still perhaps best appreciated at a gig in a tightly-packed bar where they don’t have to ask for the lights to be turned on to look into the crowd, and when they do they can actually see the audiences’ faces – no doubt enraptured. – Rappler.com