07 June 2015

The world through prism-vision

“We’re going all around the world spreading light,” said Katy Perry on “Vevo Tour Exposed” in describing the Prismatic World Tour, which is in support of her fourth studio album, “Prism.” According to billboard.com, Perry originally intended to make an acoustic record with “depressive shades,” but instead “found inspiration in more positive places.” The site quoted the singer: “All the light hit me and it influenced the songs.”

On May 7, the tour marked its first anniversary and biggest show to date at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan. For two hours, Katy Perry fans, also known as “KatyCats,” were transported into and enraptured by Perry’s Prismatic world.

The show was divided into seven set pieces, each one showcasing Perry’s music and personality. The first part, “Prismatic,” opened with the pop star’s recent #1 single, Roar and immediately raised the room’s energy to stratospheric heights.

Perry came out on stage donning a gladiator-inspired suit, not without a touch of Katy quirkiness — glowing cats eyes on the chest, lights at the seams, and more strands of light flowing from her ponytail. Around her were dancers wielding fluorescent spears.

She was just starting. Next up was the “Egyptian” section where the audience saw their princess riding a mechanical horse around the stage and a giant snake dancing as she sang Dark Horse. At this point, it was difficult not be impressed by the elaborate stage production and be convinced that “more is more.”

After the stormy performances, the playful, campy Katy Perry we knew surfaced, taking on the role of her cat Kitty Purry (or was it the other way around?) in the “Cat-oure” section, which was packed with every visual and aural cat pun and reference — from the theater theme that was reminiscent of the musical, Cats to making a catwalk out of the stage. A highlight within this highlight was Perry sashaying in a glittering fishbone dress to the tune of Madonna’s Vogue. In this part she sang an early hit, Hot N Cold and International Smile, a potential new hit from “Prism.”

The singer displayed both her warmth and sense of humor in the “Acoustic” section, dishing out emotional songs like By the Grace of God and the soaring ballad, Unconditionally. In between she talked to the fans and even asked a die-hard KatyCat to come up on stage and teach her Tagalog.

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“We may have different languages but we both share the love of music. We all came here and went through the traffic because we love music,” she remarked and continued in a more serious tone, “We hope that you come out of this show feeling happier than when you came in.”

The following section, “Throw Back” was all about good ol’ fun. It began with dancers grooving to old-school hip hop beats like Good Vibrations before Perry came back on stage to perform Walking on Air, Last Friday Night and This is How We Do, employing humble props like SUV-sized flying emojis (the poo emoji a crowd favorite) and an inflatable car.

Later on Perry brought the California vibe to the Philippine Arena in “Hyper Neon,” where the audience reveled in Katy classics, Teenage Dream and California Girls. Meanwhile the dancers played with their colorful version of the HOLLYWOOD sign, spelling out words that define our time: YOLO and LOL, among others.

Perry ended the night belting out Firework. Here the audience was encouraged to put on the prism-vision glasses that diffract light — a final kaleidoscopic touch to the spectacle that preceded it.

The Prismatic World Tour had every intention do dazzle and succeeded. It’s a rare concert where one can say, “I’ve never seen anything like it before” alongside “Ah, that’s where my money went.”

It’s one thing to mount a show with a scale as grand as Prismatic’s and quite another to replicate it (from production quality to energy intensity) in 138 cities across different continents. “I’m proud that we never had a major injury or show cancellations,” declared Perry in the middle of the concert. “We get tired, we get homesick, but we show up every single time because we said we will show up.”

On behalf of the 30,000 people who went to the Philippine Arena last Thursday, we thank Katy Perry and her crew, who came over bringing music, humor and, as promised, light.

—Originally published on GIST.PH

05 June 2015

Forever 15: Backstreet Boys still make us giddy

Right after their opening songs, Nick Carter, 1/5 of the Backstreet Boys, walked solo on stage and scanned the arena. “Are you guys for real? Are you all Backstreet Boys fans?” he told the audience, who filled the Mall of Asia Arena to the rafters on May 5.

To be honest, I was surprised myself and had to ask the same question. As an early bird, I witnessed the slow arrival of concert-goers. Most of the seats were empty with only a few minutes left till showtime.

But as the lights dimmed, more people started coming in and when the first notes of The Call struck, loud screams reverberated. I looked behind me, saw what Carter saw, and thought, “Wow, The Backstreet Boys’ charm hasn’t waned a bit.”

Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell and Howie Dorough were quick to note that they — no we, them and their fans — are old(er). Right away (and this shall be quoted in all BSB Manila 2015 concert conversations) Carter set two rules: (1) Act crazy and (2) act like 15-year-olds. Later on Richardson commanded, “Party like it’s 1999.”

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The crowd didn’t really need the instructions, but those words fuelled everyone’s desire to go deeper into the whole nostalgia trip, back in the days when we were still collecting copies of Teen Beat and Bop, and praying that song lyrics were included in the sleeve of the cassette tape we saved our meager allowance for.

The entire arena was transformed into a sort of huge karaoke house with everyone singing along with the band for two hours. My only complaint was security wouldn’t allow us to get on our feet — at least not until the party went into full swing. My companion joked, “Of course they’ll put chairs, the fans are oldies.”

In the middle of the show, the five men took a break from dancing and sat down to play acoustic instruments. The moment was easily a highlight because it was refreshing to see them doing something different, but more than that, the acoustic set underscored the fact that we just love belting out their songs.

Over-romantization alert: It was like their way of giving us a chance to shower them with adoration. Yes, after all these years, we still know the words by heart!

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Boy bands and pop songs often get a bad rep, the latter pegged as mere feel-good tunes, without aspirations to elevate the spirit. But who doesn’t want to feel good? And on that night, the Backstreet Boys were masters at making us as carefree as bright-eyed teenagers.

I’m no expert but perhaps the reason why they’re still here is that they continue to put out songs we can sing along to, melodies that stick, plain and simple. And it helps that they’ve taken good care of themselves (read: they’re still eye candies).

Backstreet Boys shared that the “In A World Like This Tour” is in celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary. “We’ve been together for 22 years now and we’re still happy to do this,” they said. It didn’t sound that impressive until I made calculations in my head. Because if you were 30 now, that means you’ve been a fan since you were 10. In other words, you’ve been a fan since grade school till you got a job, got fired, put up your own business, right up until you got married and had children.

They’ve got it going on for years and they promise to keep going. “The Backstreet Boys will go back to the studio,” disclosed Bryan towards the show’s end. And before they finally bid their good-byes, they told the all-smiles crowd, “We’ll see you again with a new album and a new tour.”

Okay then. I bet everyone in that room will have another reunion when that time comes, and count me in when the group announces their jubilee concert.

—Originally published on GIST.PH

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