Hotdog still a class act

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2014 - 12:00am

All throughout Hotdog’s recent concert at Felician College’s Breslin Theater in New Jersey, front man Rene Garcia was glued to his stool and not once did he get up. But Rene and his band were so good that no one in the audience probably noticed or cared at all.

“From the time the band kicked off with Annie Batungbakal,” reported Funfare’s Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre, “the band never let the show’s fast pace and high energy go down, with the crowd going wild with every number.”

As expected, Hotdog’s biggest hits (Manila, Ikaw Ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko, Bongga Ka ‘Day, Beh Buti Nga and Pers Lab) sent electric waves among the heated-up audience, with Joey Albert providing its vocals. (Trivia: Pers Lab, about a young girl falling in love for the first time and originally sung by ex-band member Ella del Rosario, is turning 40 next year having been released in 1975 under Hotdog’s debut album Unang Kagat.)

Apart from its own hits, Hotdog paid homage to its contemporary bands in the ’70s and ’80s by performing their respective anthems to the crowd’s delight.

Noted Edmund, “It’s startlingly impressive that Hotdog’s versions of VST & Company’s Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko, The Boyfriends’ Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal, Hagibis’ Katawan and Pot’s Yugyugan Na (Sige Na, People) came off as equally thrilling, if not better than the originals.”
According to Edmund, in the middle of the show, Rene disclosed that Joey almost became a Hotdog vocalist if not for another exciting singer named Zsa Zsa Padilla who was favored by Rene’s brother and Hotdog co-founder, Dennis Garcia.

“Crush na crush ko talaga si Joey dahil ang ganda at ang galing niyang singer,” Rene confided. “But Dennis wanted Zsa Zsa at siya (Dennis) ang laging nasusunod sa amin. Up to now, crush ko pa rin si Joey. I even wrote a song for Joey, called Dying To Tell You.”

Joey, who is happily married to Vicente Pacis (they have two daughters, Trixie and Margarita; the family is based in Canada), responded with a quip that made the crowd giggle, ”Buti na lang hindi ako naging member ng Hotdog. Sumikat tuloy ako.”

There was just an anticlimactic hitch when Hotdog emerged on stage.

“When the curtain opened and the audience began screaming after the band was formally introduced by rocker MiG Ayesa (who will be back in Manila for the repeat of Rock Of Ages on Oct. 31 to Nov. 9 at the Meralco Theater),” added Edmund, “Hotdog didn’t right away jump into singing because Rene spent a good five minutes introducing his boys, something he could have done later than putting the zealous crowd’s excitement on hold.

“But still, Hotdog proved that it has morphed into a class act, like a fine wine that only gets better with age. If only Rene would get rid of his lame homosexual jokes that dominated his spiels and replace them with anecdotes that evoke nostalgia or his humorous take on the many political scandals back home.”

The ageless and ever radiant Joey owned the stage with her stirring renditions of some of her original hits like Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin, Yakapin Mo Ako, Iisa Pa Lamang and Tell Me, her biggest song that, she noted, made her an artist. Her duet of How Do You Keep The Music Playing with musical director Lerrick Santos was among the most applauded numbers. Joey packed the James Ingram ballad with emotional punch, as it also showcased Lerrick’s impressive vocal prowess, while playing keyboards.

As if Hotdog and Joey were not enough, show producer Group Ole (proceeds will help finance the rebuilding of Assumption College in Passi, Iloilo) threw in international theater star and rocker MiG Ayesa as a guest artist. (MiG has become a suki of Group Ole in its shows because he’s the nephew of Group Ole producers Drs. Ramon and Ching Legarda.)

Famous for being a livewire Broadway and West End artist, MiG was splendid, as usual, especially with We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, songs that, in a way, have become his signatures having performed them in the West End and international tour productions of Queen’s We Will Rock You.

Edmund said that MiG’s duet with Joey was also dazzling. They obviously had fun doing I Wanna Know What Love Is from Rock Of Ages staged on Broadway where MiG also starred in as Stacee Jaxx.

Hotdog’s opening act, the FilHarmonic Band, was likewise arresting with its remarkable sound and engaging stage presence. Led by its three versatile and powerful vocalists Paz (Cutuy) Herrero (daughter of the late acting great Subas Herrero),
Joy Pascua-Kim and Jet Chan, and backed by seasoned musicians Wenchie Olitan, Peter Warren Gutierrez, Mike Villarosa and Jason Paguiligan, the band held its own against the veteran performers.

“No wonder it’s currently the most sought-after Fil-Am band in the US East Coast,” said Edmund.

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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