Rock icons make some noise in silent concert
What exactly is a “silent concert?”
This particular one was a live musical event where the audience could only hear the artists playing if they wore headphones plugged into the main sound system. When the headphones were removed, only the muffled beat of the drums and faint strains of the guitar could be heard. This was exactly the scenario when Sony presented MDR Live, headlined by Pinoy rock icons Ely Buendia and Bamboo, last Thursday, May 8, at the Rockwell Tent.
It was the first time anything like it has ever been attempted in the Philippines, and by the time the evening ended, it appeared like it wouldn't be the last.
Most audiences gained entry to the show by purchasing the special MDR headphones of Sony. There was a bit of a gridlock by the gate as those who did not already have headphones were issued one by organizers. The lack of a handout system made the process excruciatingly slow, but eventually, the audience was allowed entry into the venue with headphones (and some earphones) in hand.
Special docks were spread out on top of tables around the venue where concertgoers could plug their headphones in. The stage was enclosed in glass. It approximated the recording studio experience, albeit with an audience of hundreds watching everything from the other side.
Jay Durias of South Border served as curtain-raiser. When the announcer gave the signal for everyone to put their headphones on at past 9 pm, the silent concert experience began. It was slightly off-putting at first; a concert, by nature, is an extremely public activity you share with the people around you. In this case, the sounds coming from the artist in the booth went straight to your ears, and it felt as though he was singing it to you, and you alone. At the same time, you knew that everyone else in the crowd was hearing the same thing. Somehow, the personal became communal, and vice versa.
Another significant aspect about the show was the quality of the audio reaching the ears. During a normal concert, no matter how high-tech the speakers and sound systems are, some of the sound is lost as it travels and bounces around the room before it reaches your ears. Here, audio quality is preserved as much as possible.
Organizers made a big thing about presenting music “the way it was intended,” and for the most part, they got it right through this show. Every bum note, every lyric sung off-key, every stray guitar riff was delivered straight to the ear canal and became more pronounced; there was absolutely no room for error. Fortunately, the artists were consummate professionals and there was hardly any of that.
Durias earned some enthusiastic applause, but clearly the night belonged to the two marquee acts. Bamboo went first. The former frontman of Rivermaya and the band that carried his name was accompanied by a 4-piece string orchestra and his usual band of merry session artists that included Kakoi Legaspi on guitars, Ria Osorio on keyboards, and Junjun Regalado on drums. He began his set with a few songs from his debut album as a solo artist, No Water, No Moon, including the mesmerizing single, “Questions.”
“Okay to ah,” he said with a grin. “Sino ba nakaisip nito?” (Who thought of this?). He then segued into what he referred to as the “hits,” including singles from the critically acclaimed Bamboo (the band) album, Light. Peace Love. His delivery of the John Lennon classic “Imagine,” was well-received, as was one of the biggest hits from Rivermaya, “214.”
He also did a powerful performance of “Tatsulok,” which he covered on the We Stand Alone Together album. Throughout his set, Bamboo displayed amazing vocal chops, restrained yet powerful. At one point, he emerged from the glass booth and materialized on the other side, closer to the audience. He sampled Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” before segueing into the much more energetic Bamboo song with the same title. It was a definite highlight of the set. He ended with a cover of the Black Crowes’ “Thorn In My Pride.”
Ely Buendia certainly had his work cut out for him. The rock icon appeared at 11:15 pm and casually went onstage. While Bamboo was spirited and moved around onstage a lot, Ely was more subdued. He performed an all-Eraserheads set, starting with “Alapaap,” “Ligaya,” “Magasin,” and “Spolarium.” He barely conversed with the audience and seemed like he was going through the motions, but audiences didn’t seem to mind.
When I took my headphones off briefly, I could hear many of them singing along, out loud at the top of their lungs. They had their eyes closed with their headphones on, clearly on a nostalgic trip. Such was the effect of Ely: his mere presence was enough to turn respectable yuppies into blabbering fanboys and girls. When he did “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” it seemed like the entire Rockwell Tent was singing along.
There was a promise that Bamboo and Ely would share the stage and it came at the end of the night. The two rock stars emerged from the glass booth and shook hands before delivering the night’s big finale, an explosive cover of (what else?) The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Audiences were told to chuck their headphones, and enjoyed the song au naturel. It was a spectacular finish to a unique show, and with any luck, someone will stage a Part 2 someday soon. – Rappler.com
Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Lifestyle Asia magazine and is a live music geek. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @pauljohncana