Few folks in the entertainment industry today can claim the longevity that Pat Boone maintains. This legendary multitalented artist seems to have done it all. A singer, songwriter, actor, TV personality, spokesman and motivational speaker was in Manila for the second time, performing in concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Tuesday November 6th. By showtime, a decent sized, mature crowd had taken their seats, and what they lacked in physical ability they certainly made up for in excitement and enthusiasm. Accompanied by his band and the AMP orchestra (Asosasyon ng Musikong Pilipino), Pat handled the stage impressively, as one would expect from a consummate performer.
The fans applauded as he entered and confidently commanded the event in a surprisingly spry fashion. Maintaining a solid vocal performance throughout the night, certainly at a level that most wouldn’t expect from an 82 year old. After the first few songs, Pat addressed the crowd, “the first time I appeared here, when it was the second largest dome in all the world, second only to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, I realised that was in 1961,” he emphatically continued, “That was 55 years ago!” Then asking the crowd if any of them were here back then, a dozen or so people raised their hands as he joked in a self deprocating style, “I’m seeing hands, so you came back to see if I was going to get it right? To me, I’m living in a dream, and you’re part of my dream, thank you for being here.”
He’s sold millions of records, with 38 top 40 hits, 12 Hollywood movies, and still holds the Billboard record for spending 220 consecutive weeks on the charts with one or more songs each week. He spoke of his first screen test, “I didn’t think I was going to be in the movies, that was not part of my life plan. I wound up making the first teen musical ever made.
It’s astonishing, to think he was involved in groundbreaking milestones in music history, “Believe it or not, when I first came here, rock and roll was a new thing, up until then it was known as rhythm and blues.” He said, “I was one of the first to find some of those songs, like ‘Tutti Frutti’ and make my own versions. And we were calling them rock and roll.”
A master story teller, there was plenty of interesting banter in-between tracks, sharing stories of how a song came about or memories of other entertainers he had befriended. He spoke of his buddy Elvis Presley, and how they first met, both of them sharing the same home state in the US, Tennessee. “We were both still very new. And he seemed so nervous the first time when we met. Later I told him, Elvis, I kinda felt sorry for you, seemed like you had some kind of a…” as Pat gestured with the iconic hip and leg movements that Elvis was so well known for and the crowd responded with applause and laughter.
As one point, he had explained how it’s his tradition that when he performed ‘April Love’, he’d present a bouquet of flowers to a young lady in the crowd. He said, “And it was so much fun over the years because there were so many young girls in the audience, but now…” and the audience chuckled, as that might be a challenge for tonight, with a crowd in their sunset years, he came down the steps to serenade one his eldest fans, 96 year old Bituen Fonacier Pablo.
Before singing Speedy Gonzales, he told an interesting story of how it came about, which directly involved his last visit to Manila. “One night as a break, I went over to a night club, where there were mostly entertainers, a TV director owned it, and I went over there just to have a break,” he continued, “So this one guy, he went up on stage with 3 musicians, he turned his back to the audience and he did this ‘la, la, laaa, lalala, la, la, laaa, lalalaaaa’. What is he doing, is that a vocal warm up? Then he whirled and sang the song. And I said I love this, this song is fabulous. Who’s is it? Well it’s an American record, hasn’t it been a hit in America? It hadn’t! So I took the record of this song home from Manila, recorded it and it become the second biggest selling record, second to ‘Love Letters in the Sand’, that I’v ever had.”
The lighting was done well with a large video screen to accompany the music and the sound had a natural balance, which is not an easy task when you have an orchestra on stage. Basically a two part setlist, first portion of the show was all his hits, then a second series of Christmas songs. As he began to sing the classic Christmas songs he was joined on stage by the 20 voice CCF Choir (Christ’s Commission Fellowship), and the results were angelical.
Ranging from the classics, to an original song based on a children’s book called ‘Santa and the Christ Child’. He explained how he recorded it to keep the two figures in perspective, most children think of Santa when you mention Christmas but it’s really not what it’s all about, so it was concern that led to the song, as a father of four and now a granddad of 16 and a great granddad of seven and counting! Part of the setlist here, included some props with a rocking chair and a small Christmas tree accompanying a story of being away from home on the holidays, something of a scene you might see on a TV variety show from back in the day. He also shared that Silent Night was his all time favourite Christmas song.
A soulful night of musical nostalgia, hosted by a still thriving entertainer, he had the crowd eating out of his hand for the entire concert. Peeling back the layers of this iconic performer, essentially a living legend, a real pleasure for all in attendance, a concert they’ll be talking about for years to come.