The Gloc-9 challenge

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KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO

KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO

There is absolutely no reason to praise Gloc-9 for Ang Kwento ng Makata (AKNM), a four-part concert series at the Music Museum that happened in October. For one thing, I don’t quite have credibility: my biases are clear. I met him as a fan in 2011, have been friends with him and his wife Thea since. I was at three of those four gigs at the Music Museum borne out of that friendship, and really, it was as expected as far as Aries was concerned.

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Few know how professional this guy is, how so much goes into major projects like this one because his standards are so high for himself. And that is true for everything: he goes into the making of any song, any CD, with crazy focus and a clear sense of what the outcome should be. And while there is necessary collaboration across all these projects (an arranger for the songs, a band to back him up, a musical director, a concert director, a writer), anyone who works with Aries would know how the vision and the conscientiousness to fulfill it are all his.

And on that concert stage any fan would see which parts of it are not at all Gloc-9, and you know it too because those are the things that do not quite survive the vision that is in his every song, his every performance.

Dancers dancing
Case in point: in AKNM, back-up dancers failed to add a layer to the songs and were choreographed to the point of irrelevance. We’re talking bad interpretative dance here, on a stage that’s so small to begin with.

It was also the existence of these dancers that made Rochelle Pangilinan’s performance as Magda less powerful. Imagine what it would’ve been like if she was the only dancer to perform on that stage, doing a dance that is powerful because it is grounded in what the song actually says about women like Magda.

There was also no need to have Pangilinan do that short film as Magda, because the song itself tells the story of Magda. It didn’t help either that the Gloc-9 interview before the film used images from the music video that starred Jennylyn Mercado. All that it revealed is that while Pangilinan might be one of the most powerful dancers around, that does not quite translate to acting.

The unknowns shine

 Few know how professional Gloc-9 is, how so much goes into major projects because his standards are so high for himself

Few know how professional Gloc-9 is, how so much goes into major projects because his standards are so high for himself

But what was great about this show outweighed these production decisions. For example, the lighting was fantastic, and so were the video screen graphics that were the backdrop of the stage, which changed for every song, and which were grounded in a very clear sense of what these songs mean. The band and musical direction was as stellar as one would expect of a Gloc-9 show, but the back-up singers here were extraordinary in that one wondered why they were not front and center.

On the nights that I saw the show, Brennan and Yosha were given the opportunity to sing lead in some songs and they would bring the house down, giving the songs exciting new character.

There was also Reese, a young singer-songwriter that Gloc-9 met at a songwriting camp, and who rose to the challenge of performing with him on a concert stage. Certainly half the time she looked uncomfortable, and yet one realized soon enough that this is actually her personality shining through, where her voice and simplicity is precisely her up-yours to an industry that insists on a certain look and style. Well Reese tells us all: she don’t care.
And it’s exactly why she deserved to be on that stage.

The familiar transformed
There were also the tried and tested performers who surprised with their ability at grit and angst, the kind that Gloc-9 songs demand. Jolina Magdangal-Ecueta’s “Hari ng Tondo” was surprisingly effective, even as it might be contrary to her forever-young image. It seems that if the task is to reinvent her, they might have her do more alternative songs, because her voice is actually unique enough for the genre. The same might be said of Aiza Seguerra, whose guitar-playing skills and distinct voice will slay any rock composition.

Where KZ Tandingan was her usual brilliant self—and really she deserves better career management so that she might shine – the one who surprised was old reliable Yeng Constantino. Now I was a huge fan of Constantino’s when she was that independent rocker chick over at ABS-CBN. But as years passed and after so many albums, it seems she’s been forced to fit a mold, something that has kept her from evolving into the performer-songwriter she could still become.

But watching her perform “Upuan,” and doing it with the grit and gigil like I haven’t seen her do in a long time, I was reminded again of how talented and intense she can get, and how all Constantino needs is the freedom to make the songs, and be the person, she wants to be. Independence is a good thing, we are told. And on that stage, singing Gloc-9 songs, we hope all these artists remember that.

Humility and talent
Ah, but there is no talking about AKNM without speaking of the OPM icons who went on that stage and did their time with Gloc-9. And yes, there were Janno Gibbs and Ogie Alcasid doing “Hindi Mo Madinig,” as there were Chito Miranda, Rico Blanco, and Ebe Dancel doing their songs as well. But there was also Regine Velasquez, whose performance of “Takipsilim” might be the highlight of this concert series.

And no, this is not because she did some vocal acrobatics. Instead it’s about her ability at control and containment, reconfiguring this song so that by the time she was playing around with it, belting out notes that just kept getting higher and higher, the agony of regret that is in the song just made more and more sense.

This is of course a function of age, and one hopes that when Velasquez does reinvent herself again, it is precisely to point out that she now has nothing to prove. She is one unbeatable music icon, the closest we might ever have to a music star: she just needs the project and reinvention to go with it. And she has not lost her humility too, hugging Gloc-9 just as he was bowing down to her; shrugging off the cheering crowd and gesturing that we were pulling her leg as she exited the stage.

Right here, ladies and gentlemen, is why certain artists deserve that concert stage. And why they have longevity. It is talent yes, but it is also a whole lot of professionalism and work, a distinct personality and rakenrol. And on that concert stage, those who survived the Gloc-9 challenge reminded me yet again, that no matter the naysayers, original Pinoy music and talent? Not even close to dying.

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