I’m certainly not a huge fan of broadway musicals, never understood why they have to sing, what should be spoken word, so I wasn’t enitially thrilled with this assignment. And some say, witnessing a concert of cover songs is tantamount to karaoke night at your local bar. Not so here, a spectacular event!
There are a few musicals that I enjoy though, the first one I attended was Jesus Christ Superstar, love that soundtrack. I usual prefer the adaptations without an overabundance of dancing while singing, again strikes me as odd, too over the top, a play is more up my ally. Fortunately, the production itself wasn’t about the razzmatazz of on-stage lighting or choreography, her voice was the center of attention, no distractions from tons of unnecessary fluff, nice choice.
I’m a fan of many of the songs of Broadway, there’s a huge list of widely recognised tracks, that are just plain great and many of us know by heart. “Tomorrow” from Annie was the final song of the night, a perfect example of a creation that pretty much everyone in the world knows.
That being said, words cannot express how impressed I was with her performance. Never mind her superb vocal prowess, she really knocked it out of the park on nearly every selection. But what moved me the most, was her connection with each and every song, in turn the audience bonded with her. Corny as it may sound, you could really “feel” the emotions throughout the venue, an electricity in the air.
Her casual crowd interaction and humorous demeanour, during the breaks between songs, was also something special, you felt as though you were just chatting with an old friend that you bumped into at 7-11. Sharing her thoughts and down-to-earth insights, a broadway diva without any diva-like qualities. She even stepped off the stage, searching the crowd for volunteers to sing with her, she found three and even brought them up on stage to be part of the show.
Also, to the surprise of no one, with an impressive resume of musical appearances, the show “Rent” being her premier; she aptly commanded the stage, making it look easy, the sure sign of a consumate professional. I was touched with her story of Jonathan Larson, the shows creator, who died suddenly the night before the Off-Broadway premiere.
Setlist selections included well-known songs from Broadway, while interestingly including a mix of unexpected songs from various genres, performing Streisand to Radiohead, and a mash-up of the Police and Cole Porter, while skilfully sprinkling in lesser-known original songs.
At the media briefing, I was surprised and pleased to read the song “Creep” from Radiohead, I’m not a huge Radiohead fan but this was something more to my liking. A risky choice though, an iconic recording that is automatically associate with Thom Yorke’s vocal stylings.
I appreciated her candor, preempting the song with an explanation to the crowd of why she chose the track. She’s typically associated with feel-good songs, like the recent meteoric Disney track “Let it Go,” however just like everyone else, she doesn’t feel that way all the time, sometimes it hard to get up on stage and sing those kind of songs, sometimes you just feel like a Radiohead song. Life’s not always a bed of roses.
And she did the song justice, for sure, and kept it real; dropping the f-bombs in the lyrics, not the bullshit radio-friendly version. It’s a gritty, grunge era track, and she managed to sincerely emote some 90’s angst; eventually writhing on the floor, sprawled out across the center of the stage, very well done!
And backed by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestrao, most performers voices would have been dwarfed and struggle to be heard over such a full sound. Not with Idina, she precisely managed to cascade her vocals over the sound, and impressive feat, what a powerhouse of a voice!
At one point, towards the end of the show, she even ditched the microphone, no massive speakers used too fill the venue with sound, just her voice. I’ve seen this done before, and only a chosen few in the industry, can even attempt it. And it’s usually done at smaller venues, not a carnivorous building that can seat over 10,000. Fortunately, the substantial crowd hushed to almost dead silence as she serenaded the group without electronics. I easily heard her voice, while located at the back of the main floor, so I would guess you could hear her throughout the Mall of Asia Arena, very impressive!
So after all was said and done, I was thrilled to be assigned to cover this one. And even if you scoff at hearing the words, Broadway Musical, don’t dismiss the talent even if you’re not a fan. I would highly recommend this concert, go if you get the chance, something indescribably special here, which can only be conveyed live…
A photographers note: Soundboard only shoot, which sucks no matter how you slice it. A twist on the three song rule though, the first two and the last song before the encore, which was “Let it Go”. That was nice change, glad I waited around for the last track, the performer and the crowd are fired up by then, which obviously improves the images.
Thanks going out to Pulp Live and Rappler, my pleasure to work with both groups of folks.