x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mixing the old and the new

The Filipino rockers Rivermaya and Bamboo delivered the hits in their Dubai double-header.

 Bamboo at his Dubai concert. Courtesy Jonathan Walley Photography
Bamboo at his Dubai concert. Courtesy Jonathan Walley Photography

A dose of new and a whole lot of old.

This perfectly describes the double-header gig featuring Rivermaya and Bamboo, held on Friday at the World Trade Centre in Dubai. Dishing out familiar tunes in rapid succession, the two acts were obviously in the mood to please the large audience who came in droves to witness the rare back-to-back event.

Turning 20

Performing first were the four-piece band Rivermaya, who will be celebrating their 20th anniversary in the music business next year. The band started strong, opening their set with the anthemic Ulan before proceeding with a string of hits they popularised in the 1990s such as Elise and Hinahanap-hanap Kita. They also played two new songs (Malayang Magmahal and Tayong Dalawa) from their latest album.

Mark Escueta, Mike Elgar, Ryan Peralta and Norby David pulled off a surprise by doing covers of the classic Filipino ballads Maybe It’s You, Kung Kailangan Mo Ako and I’ll Never Go, to encourage a singalong atmosphere. It was a brave move for a group known for their original material. The crowd reaction was mixed, with some loving the renditions, while others jeered the unusual song choices.

With the crowd all warmed up, the band delivered their signature love songs You’ll Be Safe Here and 214. Capping off their set were the power-charged singles Awit ng Kabataan, Umaaraw, Umuulan and Kisapmata. Currently, Escueta, Elgar and David are sharing vocal duties, a solution agreed to by the members to address their lack of a permanent and bona fide ­frontman.

For a band that have endured a handful of line-up changes and criticisms, Rivermaya are admirably holding up well. What they lack in vocal power, they more than made up with sheer musicianship.

Still evolving

Pandemonium erupted the moment Francisco “Bamboo” Mañalac set foot on the stage to the blistering tune of Mr Clay, followed by the groovy Probinsyana. Like Rivermaya, Bamboo was smart enough to churn out well-known numbers to keep the crowd going. Bamboo’s energy was contagious throughout the set and going solo has certainly not diminished his trademark rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Bamboo brandished his versatility by shifting from original songs to cover materials with ease. Being free from the shackles of a band has allowed the charismatic singer to dig deeper into his repertoire, singing Bruno Mars’ Locked Out of Heaven in one minute then slowing things down with a heartfelt rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me to balance things up. Bamboo thanked the crowd for being “patient” and allowing him to perform some of the songs from his No Water, No Moon solo ­album.

A Bamboo-Rivermaya stage reunion, however, did not materialise. For now, sharing the bill and playing old hits in front of a happy Filipino crowd were more than enough to bring back the good times.

artslife@thenational.ae