“Every time I meet people from the Philippines, where ever in the world, you’re always in a good mood…”
The 80’s dance-pop poster boy was in the Philippines for a second visit performing at the Theater at Solarie. The nearly sold out crowd enjoyed a wonderfully entertaining evening with a distinctive performer with a powerful voice and impressive stage presence. It was the last show on the tour before the bands Christmas break so they were just letting loose, one of those concerts where, you just never knew what might happen next, which kept things very interesting.
The 1987 classic, “Never Gonna Give You Up” was a worldwide number one hit and Astleys ticket to fame. Interestingly, the same song also put him on the comeback trail back in 2007, when he became part of an internet phenomenon, a bait and switch meme, which now seems commonplace in cyberspace, ‘Rickrolling’.
His sophomore album also garnered worldwide praise, and produced another huge hit in the US, “Together Forever”. Most would have just rode the wave but he took another fork in the road, and retired from the music entertainment business at the very early age of 27, to devote time to raising his family. Much respect there, in today’s day and age, where everyone seems to be chasing the buck, very nobel indeed.
A skilful musical performance on all accounts. The band played with seasoned ease, even on the few occasions, creating impromptu back-round music to accompany a story told through a song. Astley’s distinctive smooth, deep soulful voice kept the crowd engaging for the duration of the concert.
And if you haven’t experienced a show at the Theater at Solaire, make it a point to do so. With a phenomenal sound system and an acoustic friendly design, you won’t be disappointed. And if you were paying attention, the superior acoustics even allow you to hear the performers speak without microphones, almost eavesdropping on the bands inter office communications.
There was no shortage of clowning around on stage, the band was having fun. A well balanced setlist, including all his career hits performed with a a plausible sense of easiness among the band members. The many quips, and funny short stories from Astley created a special air throughout the show, here’s my top ten entertaining moments.
1 – Starting with not just one moment, per-se, but a series of them. Throughout the first part of the concert, Rick often came to the front of the stage, welcoming selfie opportunities with many of the fans, most artists won’t take the time to do so. And not as redundant as you might think, he was having fun with it, striking poses with various groups situated along the edge of the stage, almost waiting their turns. And all the while, vocally, he didn’t miss a beat.
2 – Before the end of the show, accommodating the crowds numerous requests performing “Together Forever”, twice. This was not on the pre-planned setlist and Astley equated; giving the audience what they want, just as you would your loving wife. You could feel the energy in the room, even for a second time.
3 – This may seem odd but I enjoyed their one noticeable ‘faux pas’. One might think, why would you like a mistake, but you can learn more about a performer when things wrong, than when things go right. On one of the songs, he and the band didn’t start at the same time. A few beats into the track and Rick raised his arms, halting the band, seemingly unfazed, he joking said, “Well you know we’re not just lip syncing it here, it’s live folks”, then proceeded to begin again, this time with all the musicians in sync.
4 – Rick playing the drums, on an unexpected choice of covers, the classic, rock song, “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC. A song from my youth, perhaps any version other than the original, may be considered by the hardcore fans as simply irreverent, but he did the song justice, certainly competent vocally and really ripped it on the skins.
5 – During one of the stories, he had mentioned one of his favourite drinks, Don Papa’s rum, which happens to be a product of the Philippines. With a comment, almost in jest, he wondered if it might be possible to arrange that on stage tonight. By the start of the next song, a tray of shot glasses was being delivered to the members on stage. He saluted the audience and praised the Philippino people for their resiliency as the band consumed their shots.
6 – A couple of cover songs, Happy by Pharrell Williams and Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. As he introduced the songs, he explained he is now 50 years old, “that’s not old; is it? 50s not old”, he repeated as if to convince himself,”50s not old”, “it’s the new thirty”, an audience member shouted, and he joked “the new thirty; okay, now is that dirty thirty or just thirty?” after the laughter, he continued, ”a middle aged man, is now going to sing a song, that he probably shouldn’t, but I don’t care because I like it.”
7 – On-stage appearance by local legend Martin Rivera along with the clever and talented Carlo Orosa. Carlo handled the vocal duties while Martin and Rick provided dance accompaniment, a high energy, super entertaining segment.
8 – At one point, an overly enthusiastic fan made her way on stage, most artists security would have them swiftly carted away, but Rick welcomed her. They briefly danced as he sang, then as Rick jokingly turned his back to the crowd, as if asking for some privacy, he guided her hands below the belt line and as they say in the business, she coped a free squeeze.
9 – A Motown classic by the Temptations, “Ain’t to Proud to Beg’, after the song Rick explained, “it’s just some of the most fun stuff to do…”
10 – Someone brought an album cover towards the front of the stage, and he quipped in his English accent. “oh please don’t ask me to sign that ‘luv’, then everyone will want to have something signed, in the middle of a concert.” As she hesitated, and started back towards her seat, you could see the disappointment on her face, he says, “wait a minute; bring it here, let me check it out.” Then went on to compare his young cover photo with his current mug.
If you missed him this time, keep an eye out for his return, it will be well worth the effort. According to his website, he’s currently working on new material and has an interesting documentary in the pipeline. Ashley’s well-crafted performance and cheeky banter was right on the money. Who says you can’t tech an old dog, er..middle aged dog, new tricks.