Back to the ‘90s: Rivermaya holds epic reunion concert

Charmie Joy Pagulong - The Philippine Star
Back to the �90s: Rivermaya holds epic reunion concert
Rivermaya's (from left) Rico, Bamboo, Mark and Nathan, then and now, during the nostalgia-laden reunion concert at the SMDC Festival Grounds in Parañaque City.
Photos courtesy of Live Nation Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Rivermaya's Bamboo Mañalac, Rico Blanco, Mark Escueta, and Nathan Azarcon started their reunion concert at the SMDC Festival Grounds in Parañaque City just right on time last Saturday night with Monopoly, from the Trip album released in 1996, as the opening salvo.

Nostalgia was an understatement on that Saturday night as the rock idols performed their greatest hits from the ‘90s with a twist, courtesy of conductor Mel Villena and his orchestra ensemble that fused the band’s tracks with string arrangements.

Except for the technical issues that marred the early part of the show, the four of them showed showmanship in executing the anthems that have been part of the lives of the ‘90s kids, such as Kung Ayaw Mo, Huwag Mo, The Princess of Disguise, and Ballroom Dancing.

While playing their 1997s single from the Atomic Bomb album, Hinahanap-Hanap Kita, the audio went spotty. But they continued with Sunny Days, a track from the same album, after the audio system got back.

A fireworks display accompanies Rivermaya's performance of 214. The band would then perform their other ‘90s hits, Himala and Kisapmata, as encore.

“How long have you, guys, waiting for this moment?” main vocalist Bamboo asked the concertgoers. “I’ll give you, guys, a treat. We’ve been doing this for a while, a thousand songs running in our head, so sometimes songs are a blur. Things are sort of mishmash. Pero ibang bagay, you don’t forget. There are some moments you just don’t forget.”

“And it’s your first, right? It’s the first time you hear yourself on the radio, when you’re standing in your kitchen counter, waiting for that song to play. This song is our first song, our first single,” said Bamboo, who was pertaining to their debut single Ulan from the self-titled album in 1994. It didn’t rain though, but a misty window with raindrops was flashed on the big screen, an apt scene to ruminate over the sentiments of the song.

Another wistful tune was played by Rico, the band’s keyboardist, guitarist and chief composer, who went on solo for his performance of You’ll Be Safe Here from the 2005 EP.

Before hitting Luha, Bamboo couldn’t help but notice the throng of crowd that came to see them, “Pinch me, kurutin niyo (ko). Are we really here? Still can’t believe. This is a long song, it’s an old song… This one’s called Luha.”

It was followed by Bring Me Down but it was during their 20 Million performance that the show was put on halt due to a technical glitch. The audio stopped working after the band sang a few bars of the song. The audience was shouting, “audio” and “ulit.”

Lead vocalist Bamboo Mañalac

The organizers announced that there would be a technical break while Bamboo and Rico entertained and interacted with the crowd during the show’s interval.

Shortly after, the members returned to the stage, Rico did a crowd check, “OK pa ba tayo?” and carried out the song 20 Million. They then proceeded with the melodic If, Fever, Kundiman, Hilo, and Flowers.

“You’ve kept our music close to your hearts for so many years. You have given us the honor of keeping you company, in your journey through life, and (we) dedicate this next song to all of you. This is a small thank you for all the love, all these years,” uttered Rico to the fans before staging the evocative tune Panahon Na Naman.

The loyal fans attended the gig, with their friends, families and kids, who cheered, sang along and reminisced about the past memories with the band ever since they first rocked the local music scene decades ago.

Keyboardist, guitarist and chief composer Rico Blanco.

Among the attendees who also showed their support for the rock icons were Rico’s girlfriend Maris Racal and Mark’s wife Jolina Magdangal. Daniel Padilla, Dominic Roque, Judy Ann Santos and husband Ryan Agoncillo, Kaila Estrada, Darren Espanto, Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Guidicelli, and other celebrities were also spotted at the music event.

The former bandmates were having a good time on stage, as much as the audience, as they jumped, danced and clapped to Elesi, Nerbyoso, and Mabuhay. Replete with pyrotechnics, they continued the festive mood in Awit ng Kabataan with Higantes and marching band on drums joining them on stage.

Rico asked the spectators, “Sabi ko kanina kaya niyo pa ba?” The audience replied with a resounding yes with Bamboo adding, “Yes, we can.”

Rivermaya “got real” with their earnest love song 214. The orchestral arrangement added to the romantic feels of the track, as the half-moon and stars hovered from above in the open-field venue and fireworks lit up the night sky.

Bassist Nathan Azarcon.

Rico blew a kiss to the eventgoers, gave a salute, pointed someone at the crowd, and together they played Himala, their penultimate song of the night.

Bamboo didn’t forget to say thank you to their fans, his bandmates, to Mel, and concert organizer Live Nation Philippines for making the concert possible.

“Maraming, maraming salamat sa inyong lahat. Thank you. It’s been an amazing night, a few ifs, some buts, pero OK naman tayong lahat. It’s the spirit of the whole thing, it’s the journey we all here together. We’re making history together,” mused Bamboo.

“For this one night, and let me just say, let me just say thank you very much to Mel Villena and his band. Mel, take a bow. And once again, a big hand — harap hanggang likod, a big hand, for Mark Escueta on drums. Let’s hear it from bass, Nate Azarcon, and scream for the one and only Rico Blanco. Thank you very much and give it up for Live Nation Philippines.”

Drummer Mark Escueta.

Did he forget to mention himself? Rico interjected during Bamboo’s spiel and had the honor of presenting him, “Everyone, give it up for Bamboo. Bamboo, ladies and gentlemen!” and the audience cheered one more time.

“This is a dream, thank you very much. Goodnight!” declared Bamboo and rendered an energetic encore performance of Kisapmata, accompanied with compelling fireworks extravaganza and confetti showers — a fitting ending to the spectacular show filled with visual effects, musical talents and nostalgia.

They walked toward the center stage, danced, clapped and took a bow. The show had ended, but the fans clamored for more songs to be played that were not in the setlist. A Part 2 of the reunion concert, perhaps?

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