It was one of those head-turning nights as glittering showbiz celebrities, the crème dela crème of Manila’s social circle, and top business leaders gathered in one venue, not to support a political candidate or a worthy cause, but to get bowled over by the work of two musical geniuses.
Two titans of the international music scene descended upon the stage of the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Resorts World Manila on March 3 in a one-night only performance dubbed Up Close and Personal. Headlined by Grammy award-winning trumpeter and composer Chris Botti and the inimitable and legendary “Englishman” of New Wave Rock, Sting, it was certainly the hottest ticket of the week, following Madonna’s highly explosive Rebel Heart concert a few days earlier.
Packing what is on record as the Philippines largest ballroom with fans of all ages, the mix of VIPs who trooped to the 3,000-square meter pillar-less venue of Marriot Manila was a sight in itself.
Imagine Rustan’s matriarch Nedy Tantoco at the front row for Sting? Perhaps she was there for Botti’s impeccable Standard and Jazz instrumentals, but with Queen Elizabeth 2nd herself an avid fan of the 64-year-old Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (a title Her Royal Majesty bestowed on the former The Police lead singer in 2003), then Tantoco must have dug him as well.
Also spotted eager to watch the concert were OPM bigwig and comedian Ogie Alcasid (whose wife Regine must have stayed home with their unico hijo, Nate), Pia Guanio, Gretchen Fulido and Archie Nicasio, Julis and Tintin Babao, Vicky Morales and husband King Reyno among other showbiz celebrities and broadcast personalities; corporate leaders including ABS-CBN’s head honcho Gabby Lopez, Smart’s Doy Vea, and Tony Boy
Cojuanco with his partner, actress Gretchen Barretto and her amigas Mimi Que and Charmaine Lagman; eventologist Tim Yap; The Drawing Room curator-owner Cesar “Jun” Villalon, Jr., his wife Kathleen Villalon, and artist Gus Albor; and the ever beautiful Bianca Araneta Elizalde with her husband Juan Elizalde to name a few.
Gracious to give Sting the stage for over a good half of the two-hour long concert, Botti said, “It’s from years and years of friendship and respect and Sting being open to doing something crazy like this. I can’t really think of another situation where somebody that famous or iconic has joined someone else’s band. It’s a really cool thing and I think it says a lot about what he feels about the musicianship of the people in my group and also speaks of our friendship for sure.” He was proudly a fan like the rest of the audience in the gigantic ballroom who went crazy over the sexy and talented artist.
For his part, Sting, who in his 2012 Back to Bass concert at The Big Dome enjoyed performing for his Filipino audience so much that he went he gave four encores, fondly said, “The Filipino fans are incredibly warm and gracious.”
Botti’s set list comprised his staple renditions of “Emmanuel”, “The Look of Love” and “Let’s Stay Together”, among others.
The entire Marriott Grand Ballroom shifted with a torrent of excitement as the familiar intro to “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” began playing as Botti called out Sting onstage. “It’s been four years since I last performed here in Manila and it’s good to be back,” he said to a defeaning cheers.
By this time, the crowd was up and about as Sting performed both his solo and The Police’s timeless hits including “Seven Days”, “Roxanne”, “Fields of Gold”, and “Shape of My Heart”. The night’s magic intensified all the more as Botti and Sting performed their Sinatra tribute “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and a poignant rendition of Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street”.
The set later progressed into an energetic performance of “Desert Rose” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” which was then complemented by Botti’s version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and finally the crowd pleaser “Every Breath You Take”.
As expected, audiences clamored for an encore and both Botti and Sting obliged with two more favorites, “Englishman in New York” and “Fragile” before finally taking a bow in the sold out ballroom.