He came, he saw, he conquered
- Jen Velarmino () - February 17, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - I drove to Manila to be with my Denise on her 20th birthday. I wanted to bring her to David Benoit’s concert at the PICC, as a birthday gift. Fastidious girl, she wanted to just “chill-out” with her siblings and friends and I felt so alone. That was my momentary victim story last night. But then, as I was driving along EDSA, thinking of phoning somebody, the phone rang and guess who was on the other line but my eternal art buddy and the gal I’d like to call — Christine Carlos!

“Hey Jen, wanna go to David Benoit’s concert tonight? Tickets on me.”

 A big wow swept through me in a quiet way. So I am not going to be alone tonight and sulk about my being dumped. (The universe worked its wonders again for me. Hahaha, it’s becoming habitual and I am getting the hang of it.) I am not sure how Chrissy was able to secure tickets since earlier I was also having thoughts about how I’m going to get the tickets myself though the scalpers proved to be always a reliable option.

Another challenge: Chrissy was scheduled to finish her Master’s thesis reporting at UP by 6 p.m. She wasn’t willing to risk missing the opening if we drive from Loyola Heights. So off we went to take the Metro Rail. Yey, I’ve almost completely forgotten how to use that mode of transport. Definitely reliable when it comes to projecting your arrivals from point-to-point. So we made it at PICC on time.

On stage, Benoit was superb. The PICC was a fitting venue for a great artist. Maestro Gerard Salonga conducted the 60-piece orchestra harmonically. Bituin Escalante (who wore a bright canary yellow gown) belted Promise Me A Carousel and Filipino fave Land of the Loving originally sang by Dianne Reeves.

As expected, she wowed Benoit and the crowd. Odie Benipayo, who rendered You Never Love Me The Same Way Twice and encore song Take A Look Inside My Heart is a promising jazz talent. And of course, there was Tots Tolentino and his soulful flute.

During his spiel, Benoit said he got his initial inspiration to succeed as a musician in 1981 (he was then a struggling artist performing at L.A. hotel lobbies) when he was invited by A&W Villar Records to do a show in Manila, where the same label launched his first album as an artist. He was so overwhelmed at the Filipinos’ appreciation of his talents, he knew from then on that he will move up to a higher calling in the music industry.

The rest is history. His music is not only popular here and in the US, but worldwide. Benoit has chosen (and popularized) smooth jazz. And this assures him of immortality as an artist.

After 29 years, he said he was glad to be back to perform before the Filipino audience, the same one that inspired him to become who he is now.

Benoit also told the audience that Lea Salonga and husband Robert Chien were instrumental to his return engagement in the country. The couple introduced Benoit to Lea’s talented brother Gerard, who also shone that night with the way he wielded his baton.

Benoit remembered being impressed when he watched Lea in Miss Saigon and saw her rendition of Land of the Loving on YouTube. “I did everything to make sure that she performs in one of my shows,” Benoit said.

Benoit’s show was successful not only because of his masterful performance but because he showed respect for the audience by performing all the numbers we love and grew up with. Because Benoit delivered what we clamored for, the show became a tribute to the Filipinos’ love for music.

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