It might have been a coincidence that the feeling I had in my gut on my way to SMX was exactly the same feeling I had when I was about to watch the Jackson 5 at the Araneta Coliseum back in the ‘70s. It was an excitement that turned your stomach upside down and your heart beat much faster than it normally does. The whole day leading to the concert, I tried my best to act normal in front of my wife and kids, lest I hear their regular ribbing about the other member of my family. Yes, they are finally convinced that I have adopted Charice as my daughter and were really ganging up on me in a good way. They knew I was in a hurry to get to the concert site early so they really did everything in slow motion trying to see up to what point I would finally give up my pretence and finally reveal what they knew all along… I was just one hopeless Charice fan who couldn’t wait to watch her concert. So there! I finally asked to take leave and was allowed to go but not without all the kidding and laughter.
Charicemania had the week before initiated a meet-up before the concert and I also learned that many generous members of this site living abroad had sent some funds for tickets to be given out to very deserving Charice fans. I wanted to experience this so I texted Garfield, whom I have gotten in touch with previously that week and was given the meeting place that they set along with Anciano Uno, ggg, and mitch… names that I regularly see in the Charicemania site and are very active in the chat room. Everyone who asked for and were promised tickets were supposed to meet up at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet at the Mall of Asia. It took a while for me to find the place as MoA is such a humongous place, I believe one of the top 3 biggest in the whole world and my head was already spinning with such a big weekend crowd but finally saw where KFC was. I sneaked my way over slowly, trying to first gauge the Chasters who have already gathered in front of the fast food outlet. While still deciding whether I would introduce myself or not, the friendly face of AncianoUno came up to me and asked me if I was a Chaster. Introductions followed with the rest of the people there as I slowly warmed up to everyone… well, I was the most senior in this bunch of Charice fanatics. Anyway, pictures were being snapped at such a rate, you didn’t know which way to turn. I took the chance to find out what it was that made one a Chaster like me, for I knew that each of us were from such diverse backgrounds, age groups, and interests…
There was the group of meowsky, java and her friends who all came from Bacolod, and they had to take connecting flights just to get to the concert in time, and I found out also that they would be going back to the airport right after the post concert get together for their flight home… talk about true fans! What intrigued me the most was I didn’t expect other fans from different websites to gather right there as one group … there was, of course, Charicemania, chaster.us, charicediva.com, chariceworld… I watched the smiles of those who got free tickets from our generous members and I got to meet Narita who herself had sponsored free tickets for the fans. I couldn’t help but smile myself. This spirit of sharing could only be inspired by something I had always called “doing things in life the Charice way.” Familiar names started to show up… jn, ecirol, icebaby… I got to meet a group who called themselves HILC or Hopelessly In Love with Charice, young boys in their teens. Narita and I exchanged anecdotes of how friends looked at us silly for being such Charice fans but how most of them are slowly being converted as Charice fans themselves after hearing her sing or finding out about the wonderful things this princess of ours has achieved which makes us proud to be Filipino.
Well, time to proceed to the concert venue. The group started to walk to SMX Convention Center and as we rounded the corner of the mall, we finally saw the imposing edifice. Lo and behold, the crowd gathered outside, it was certainly a sight to see. I knew that the concert sold out but I was completely amazed at how much people were there lined up to enter the venue. As the group was seated at different sections, good-byes were said and instructions given as to where to meet. Did I mention that Chasters in the group with nametags had been given privilege to go backstage after the concert and have a group picture taken with Charice? Anyway, while lining up to enter the main hall, I decided to look at the whole make-up of the crowd. It was actually a mix of young and old but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that a big percentage belonged to the older bracket. LoloLando, LoloJP, and Max would feel right at home here, just as I would later on. I figured that those in the middle-age bracket grew up listening to Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. There were a lot of young people who came with their parents, whole families, couples, and groups of friends. This actually reassured me that Charice indeed has transcended any one particular group or genre and has managed to transform herself to a star appreciated by a broad spectrum of music lovers.
Now, a few observations that I would like to share with our readers… 8 pm already but more than half of the crowd still couldn’t get in. I wish I could forgive SMX but if it were striving to present itself as the concert venue to be, they would need to do a better job. If I were to choose a concert venue, I’d choose the Araneta Coliseum anytime. But alas, the Araneta had been booked already by the NCAA Basketball Opening Day. Without having to go to the negative details of SMX’s flaws, all I would say is that the concert didn’t start till after an hour later since the organizers had to fix seating problems and settle arguments between concert goers and ushers and security people. Add to this the seemingly irritating habit of a few who arrive at the concert an hour late, then walk in (and this seems to happen to me all the time) and stand in front blocking people’s view without care at all while waiting to be seated. I guess I may have mellowed down with age as I just kept quiet in my seat, exchanged a few chit-chats with my seatmates and waited patiently for the concert to start.
The lights dimmed at exactly 8:49 pm and the screen flashes the countdown numbers starting at 5:00 minutes. I can now feel the excitement as the crowd starts clapping along with the beat of the count. This grows louder as the count nears the 2 minute mark… I now divert my attention from the arguments (among the ushers and some people looking for their seats), to look at the dark stage. The countdown reaches 10, 9, 8, 7….3, 2, 1! The band starts with their overture while the large screen flashes the familiar pictures and videos of Charice, from her Little Big Star days to Star King, Ellen then Oprah. I see the silhouette of our princess come out and take her place in the middle of the stage, and as soon as the spotlights hit Charice, an explosion of applause and cheers as Charice opens with “And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going”. Charice was truly splendid in her white gown. As for me, I was giddy on my seat trying to absorb each melody of the song, analyzing her dynamics, trying to figure out the health of her voice knowing that she was under the weather…. questions, questions… a skip in the beat of my heart every time she starts with her crescendos until I took hold of myself and told myself, enjoy… enjoy…enjoy… enjoy… just as one would recite a mantra to calm one’s self down. My feelings then were no different from the countless numbers of times I would watch her sing that very same song on Charicemania, on You Tube, or Phil Bolsta’s blogsite… and this was just the first song. Charice didn’t have to move from her spot… I knew that all 8,000 pairs of eyes were glued to this beautiful princess in her flowing white gown. Without skipping a beat, she moves on to her second song “My Heart Will Go On”. I would think that I wasn’t the only one who would picture her on Oprah in her denim ensemble singing this song while being accompanied on the piano by David Foster… for this was the episode where one of her dreams would start to come true, where she would meet Celine Dion, be invited to sing at MSG and “blow the roof off!” The same emotions I had in that episode were the same emotions I felt that night. I must’ve breathed silently to myself, “my princess is sharing the journey that she has travelled with everyone in the audience… this is going to be her life relived in this concert.”
“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” has got to be one of my most favourite songs of all time. I loved it when Barbra Streisand sang it, I loved it when Regine sang it, I loved it when Katheryn McPhee sang it, and now I continue to love it after I heard Charice’s version. Of course none could introduce the high notes that our princess has made as her signature sound. I have heard countless versions of this song and I give Charice a thumbs up for her rendition of this classic. In the meantime, I was beginning to feel more confident for Charice to be able to carry this concert through to the end… so far so good, still pitch perfect, some falsettos on some parts that I thought was a wise move, in order to preserve her voice for the more demanding songs that were going to follow.
She sings “If I Were You” where she is joined in the chorus by her Little Big Star co-contestants, I only remember the names of Makisig and Rap Salazar from the 4 guests. When Charice took her leave, presumably to change costumes, the four gave out renditions of “Bridge over Troubled Waters, Awit Kay Nanay, Kailangan Kita, and Anytime you Need a Friend.” What can I say except that Filipinos are extremely talented singers? Immediately after their songs, Charice is out on stage again, this time in a yellow gown. She seems to have overcome her initial jitters and has settled in. She starts with her spiels. I couldn’t help but observe that she has taken some Sarah Geronimo mannerisms into her spiels and this just goes to show how Charice has been influenced by Sarah during her Little Big Star days. In time, Charice will develop her own unique way of addressing her audience with her own kind of lovable humor. Each diva from Kuh to Pops to Regine to ZsaZsa started off in similar fashion until each developed their own brand of personalities on stage.
Charice sings “I Will Always Love You”… right on the screen is a picture of Whitney with a personalized dedication to Charice. After this is the part which I feel is most important to Charice… when she introduces the “most talented mom in the world” Racquel who comes out in an equally stunning and color-matched yellow gown. Expectedly, the song they sing is “You and Me against the World”… and our very unassuming mom Racquel does what she usually does whenever she sings her duet with Charice… they face each other while singing their duet… I can only assume that this is Racquel’s way of overcoming her stage-fright… but I felt that she did quite well… and in a way, a very graphic representation of how much love this family had for each one and how this love and faith had helped them overcome all the trials or tribulations that have come their way.
Did we say that Charice is the most talented girl in the world? Well, this girl can write her own original songs too! She proves this by singing this wonderful original song “Amazing.” I was debating with myself whether her original song had enough to make it internationally… well, once a fan always a fan, so what do you think my answer was?
Our favourite LSS (Last Song Syndrome) “Listen” was next. Oh, I must’ve driven my wife insane with me singing this song incessantly after watching her Italy guesting video a countless number of times… but now, here I am listening to her singing it live. I’ve always felt that the difference every time Charice does a cover song of another artist is that her version comes out better because of the “galing sa puso” (coming from the heart) factor. I am no longer surprised why Charice endeared herself to all of her Italian listeners during her guesting… there is just something magical in her singing, a certain IT that one just cannot find the words to explain.
The concert is now midway through its course and this time, Charice introduces one of her main guests, Christian Bautista. I figured then that he would be singing a duet of “The Prayer” with Charice since this is one of the songs that had endeared Charice to the world after her duet with Andrea Bocelli. I had decided to reserve my judgement on Christian and how he would tackle his part in this duet. Would he be operatic here, or would he be pop? I knew he would be versatile since I had watched him perform the role of Tony in the Broadway musical West Side Story last year at the Meralco Theater… Charice’s part is a given… Well, Charice introduces Josh Groban… well, the Filipino Josh Groban (signifies her crush on the American sensation while the audience giggles at her silly actuations) and Christian and Charice tackles “The Prayer” beautifully. Since this is my number one favourite song (before Note to God came out), I had my eyes closed all throughout their singing, savouring every nuance and subtleties this Carole Sager song presented. Theirs was again a different version from the Bocelli-Dion or Groban-Church renditions but again, this is what I love the most about our Princess… her musicality has grown so much over the past couple of years that she has now learned to adopt with every kind of situation… I remember David Foster mentioning that he can change arrangements last minute and that would be no problem for Charice. After the song, Charice takes leave again for another costume change while Christian dishes out a medley of OPM songs. He has his own group of fans in the audience and I think he is one of our better male singers now… I enjoyed it when he spoofs himself and tells the audience that it takes 10 minutes for Charice to change costumes so he was required to sing a medley of songs that was at least 10 minutes long… kudos to Christian! Another truth that he shares with the audience is that he and Charice were both losers in singing contests but that both of them are still alive and doing well in their respective careers!
This time, after a long pause and the audience waiting for what was next, I noticed that some background chatter was coming out from speakers… we are getting a glimpse of some confusion behind the stage… I figured that they were choosing which microphone to use or something else… a few more sound checks and then suddenly Charice starts her next song “I Have Nothing”… but this time she doesn’t enter from the stage but rather is already with the audience at the VIP section… oh, oh… I remembered LoloLando and LoloJP and some others in CM wary about the safety of Charice with regards to her singing among the audience… and thinking about how bad security handled the initial problems with the audience, I quickly said a prayer for her safety…. well, the audience behaved, a few taking advantage of that photo op by standing beside Charice but she quickly got back to the stage where she finished her song. At this point, the Rosa Mystica choir joins her on stage while she introduces her next medley of Josh Groban songs… she tickles our imagination for what is coming up next when she says, “kakayanin ko” (I will be able to do it)… this referring to how hard it was to sing the highest note of the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Now this song is what introduced Charice to the European audience… you remember that Football event where she sang this very same song? Again, one of the classics… I’ve always listened to the Lettermen version of this in my younger days as inspiration and the very first singer who belted out the high notes for this song was Regine during one of her concerts a couple of decades ago… so here, we see the Regine touch in Charice’s singing… well she nails it! But I was starting to observe that her colds must be affecting her singing at this point… I was already telling myself, “Charice, nothing to prove anymore… with your musicality, you can now relax and not have to do the high notes… the audience will still love you!” But Charice proves that she is truly a brave person. The rest of the evening proves this.
As Charice segues to the second song of the Josh Groban medley “You Raise Me Up”, this is where the choir joins her in the chorus… and this is where I closed my eyes again, not because I was savouring the song, but because I had wanted to shut out the choir and just listen to Charice. The Bass section of the choir must have been a whole note off! Again, I have to give points to Charice for not being thrown off balance by the counterpoint from the choir not being in tune. Sadly and gladly and through no fault of Charice, the song is finished. I will raise some points here when I do my recap of this article… anyway…
The choir exits along with Charice… and here we have some uneasy moments… as this was a long lull in the show… Charice comes out in a black outfit and dishes out “I Will Survive”… forgive an oldie like me, I really enjoy things in a passive way, but here is where I would have wished that we Filipinos were a little bit more expressive… as I was wishing that the young ones would jump out from their seats and dance along with Charice… oh well.. What follows then is the upbeat portion of the show where Charice showcases her dancing talents… she sings Halo, Just Dance and Billy Jean segueing into her teary-eyed sharing of what might have been… her guesting in Michael Jackson’s concert tour… and this is where I sit back and do an initial appreciation and assessment of how the concert has gone so far…
The impression that the venue gave to the crowd was already a downer from the start as there was chaos… ushers not knowing their own seating arrangement and security people not doing their jobs. Anyone without tickets could have gotten in since tickets were not even checked… I will forgive the organizers this first time mistake as Araneta was booked and since I figure show date was a given, SMX was the only venue available. Meralco theatre can only seat 4,000 people although I would have loved to hear Charice perform in this acoustical wonder of a venue. So I gave a thumbs-down on venue choice.
A six-man back up for Charice… instead of a full orchestra, a digital synthesizer as third keyboard was used to produce the strings and brass section of the arrangement. While I will not fault the musicians, I would have preferred hearing the pure tones of violins, trumpets, clarinets and flutes. So giving the benefit of the doubt, I figure (again) that most of the seasoned session players are out of the country, what with the roadshow of Gary V. in China, the anniversary show of Star Magic in the States, concert season for the orchestras… or did budget and time constraints also figure into this equation? Remember the Good Morning America guesting of Charice? She had no less than a full string section aside from David Foster’s band backing her up. Same for the back-up singers… I would have preferred the seasoned voices of Zebedee Zuniga (Nonoy’s brother) and the Isidro sisters (Agot’s siblings)… but I will describe the back-up singers as adequate but not that great. Again, maybe all the good back-up singers are signed up for the other concerts abroad.
Sigh! Here we go with the outfit and make-up which seems to stir up the most controversies in the Charicemania website… I will defend her choice of outfits and gowns for this concert… why? This was her debut concert, it was just fitting she dressed up as princess of the ball or debutante. Besides, given the choice of this damn if you do, damn if you don’t situation, I’d much rather she was dressed up to the hilt. People should remember that God did not make her tall and slender… but God gave her a gift… not only of a great voice but more of a big heart… a heart strong enough to accept herself for what she is and not pretend as what she isn’t… a beauty queen she is not, but I will choose her anytime amongst all the other Miss Universes or Singing Idols whose only contributions are the controversial lives that they live. I learn everyday from “doing things and living life the Charice way.” The dress and make-up does not make the person, it is her aura and self-giving, humility, faith and love that does. She can be wearing rags for all I care and I’d still see the beauty in her. With Charice, nothing is superficial.
As for Charice herself… all thumbs up to her!
Back to the concert… the next part is where Charice sings a series of songs prior to having Regine up on stage with her… she sings “Try it On My Own, Through the Rain, All By Myself, and When You Believe”… again this along the theme that they try to establish of the hardships as well as inspirations of Charice during her struggles in her young life… far from trivializing the choice of songs here, I personally believed that Charice tries to showcase songs that had a lot of meaning for her.
Revelation! Charice intimates that Regine cannot make it and was in the hospital. It was a downer for me… for a while at least, until Kuh Ledesma came out. Everything is forgiven as Kuh is another favourite of mine where I used to watch her when she was still the lead singer of Music and Magic. They sing their duet “Anak”. Now here is where you see the vocal dexterity of both singers as they tackle this very hard arrangement of counterpoints. But I truly appreciate it when Kuh gives our princess her tribute and words of advice. I know that Charice respects Kuh and she will take to heart these words from someone who has been “there” before her.
“One Moment in Time” follows but the next song is where I truly fell in love with Charice even more. She sings her version of “At Last”, the song that Beyonce sang while the Obamas danced during the inaugural ball. No wonder we oldies just love Charice… she is a woman child who can really sing the classics as no one can. “Bow ako talaga”… I salute her! This shows that she will have endurance (or staying power) in this industry…
By then, we knew that all things must come to an end. She sings her hit “Always You” and then goes to “Note to God”… this time, the choir redeems itself with an adequate back-up to the song. The audience by then shows their appreciation with interspersed ovations from time to time while I sing softly along with her. I knew that our princess has such a long way to go and more and more people are going to be touched by this angel… I marvel at Charice’s bravery for having given all of what she can and not hold back inspite of her colds. I knew then that this was not the last concert of Charice that I would see… her journey has just began and I will continue to support her all the way.
While the concert may not have been perfect, everyone left the venue satisfied and truly appreciative and in awe of this girl’s God-given talent. Even while Charice sings her encores “Paano Kita Mapapasalamatan” and “Maghintay Ka Lamang”, I couldn’t help my tears, just as a proud father who have just witnessed another achievement by his daughter; a father who can forgive all the other small discrepancies and faults knowing fully well that what matters most is that Charice gave all of her heart and soul for this concert.
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