Brownman Revival: Of the heart, mind, hips
Rick Olivares (The Philippine Star) - August 6, 2014 - 10:05am

You will have to bear with this introduction.

I know that the music industry is not what it once was. There was a time when “video killed the radio star.” But then Napster heralded an age that not only killed the video and radio star, but has also sapped the life out the music scene.

Albums and their physical manifestation of vinyl long players and compact discs, while still around, aren’t doing well as compared to digital downloads.

Despite these changes, I am a dinosaur who prefers to purchase CDs.

And that leads me to Filipino reggae band Brownman Revival, which will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its founding this November with its third album (they also have two other Extended Play CDs that are like singles only with about five tracks).

That’s three albums for every six years and change. Or a CD (including the EPs) every four years. That’s not much, but I guess I should be counting my blessings because this wonderful band is still around to appeal not only to the heart and mind but the hips as well.

Last Friday night, at the height of the massive traffic jam that turned Metro Manila’s main and minor thoroughfares into big parking lots, I went to watch Brownman Revival at 70s Bistro along Anonas Street in Project 2, Quezon City.

I had not seen the band in two years and was eager to catch them live (their music is a regular staple of my iTunes play).

Lazaro, a new outfit that will strongly remind you of the music of the Dave Matthews Band, opened for Brownman Revival, which took the stage at 11:30 p.m. But I wasn’t complaining as good things come to those who wait.

Dino Concepcion and company went through their old favorites mixed with new songs as well as classic hits given a reggae treatment.

The started off their first set with that Boyfriends’ classic that has become a BR staple – “Ikaw Lang Ang Aking Mahal” – a slow ballad worked to the staccato beat that makes the music hypnotic and impossible to ignore.

If that was the patikim, then the next song, “Jeggae,” with its lively brass section finally worked its way into everybody at the venue. Heads bobbed. Feet tapped. Then the slow and sensuous gyrations by the audience began.

It was party time!

I find it incredible that Brownman has been able to hold on to its horn section (Jayson Cuevas on trombone, Ambet Abundo on trumpet and Andrew Santos on saxophone) after all these years. While some bands make use of keyboards to cover for the lack of brass, BR spares no expense as the horns add so much to their music especially during live performances.

As for lead singer Dino Concepcion, he’s remained – to borrow the title of their first album – steady lang; as cool and as suave in his trademark sunglasses at night when the band first burst out of Ateneo in the early 1990s.

While I have to admit that I miss the toasting of former member Sappy Saplala (even after all these years), the back-up vocals of Dino’s brother, Dennis, and guitarist, Alphy DeSaville have become more pronounced rather than quicksilver like wisps for second voices.

And this is a band that brings its own sunshine even to late night gigs.

When Brownman Revival launched into lively renditions of Inner Circle’s “Sweat” and Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Could You Be Loved,” the crowd was now in full swing and the dancing had spilled over to the aisles.

While reggae music has more or less been dance music (some might counter it as a form of revolutionary music), Brownman Revival, in my opinion, has always lived what the music is all about – a massive celebration of life. They’re these islands’ version of Big Mountain, which celebrated American reggae band that infused Latino flavor into the reggae. Only Brownman Revival, its OPM and the way they reggae-fy classic hits from the Eraserheads (Maling Akala), Muli (RJ and the Riots), and the aforementioned Boyfriends.

Even if the gig was pushing perilously past 2 a.m., 70’s Bistro was rollicking. And if the Friday evening/Saturday morning crowd’s pleas for more were heard, it might have ended at the crack of dawn.

And on cue, they ended with that Wailer’s ditty, “Three Little Birds.”

The radio stars might be dead. Vinyl and compact discs precariously holding on to shelf life. But as long as Brownman Revival – going on 20 years now – remains gigging and putting out albums, we’ll to forget those perennial Metro Manila traffic jams and rainy evenings and scurry down the aisles with our dancing shoes on.

The point gets across. From the heart, the mind, and the hips.

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