EXTRAORDINARILY SATISFYING | Ben&Ben’s homecoming concert was every fan’s dream

Despite less than ideal circumstances, most fans concede that the show was worth all the trouble.
Ben&Ben at their well-rece3ived Homecoming Concert (Photo by Manuel Chua)

It was every fan’s dream—the long overdue major concert of Ben&Ben.

The concert was originally slated as a send-off before the band went on their concert tour in the US and Canada, but that show was cancelled due to unpleasant weather conditions. Upon returning from their North American tour, the nine-piece band helmed by identical twins Paolo and Miguel Guico focused on preparations for a long-awaited homecoming show.

Circumstances on the day of the show itself were less than ideal. Queuing was a major problem. The venue, SMDC Festival Grounds, is directly across Solaire, but the line extended as far as the SM Mall of Asia. On social media, patrons complained that they had been in line for hours. Some eventually chose to opt out of the concert even if they already had tickets.

Ben&Ben has since apologized on social media for the “deeply stressful experience with the queuing, the entry into the venue, and the general gaps in the organization of the event.” Fans have acknowledged the apology, and assured the band of their unwavering patronage, saying the experience was worth the trouble.

It’s true. If you look beyond the pre-show and queuing issues, you’d say Ben&Ben’s Homecoming Concert was an extraordinarily satisfying musical experience. Although it was difficult to appreciate what was happening on stage due to physical distance and there was dead air on occasion in between performances, as well as technical glitches that muffled the sound system at some point, no one can deny the preparation the band and the production team went through just to pull off what is arguably their biggest show to date.

Moreover, no one can deny how powerful and moving the performances were, especially to the fans.

Clara Benin, as the front act, did a great job at calming the nerves of the jittered audience. She sang “Parallel Universe,” one of her originals, and her soothing voice and fluid guitar playing helped set the mood for the rest of the evening.

A montage of Ben&Ben’s performances while on tour along with the names of the tour destinations, flashed on the LED screens as the audience held their breath for the main act. A seemingly handwritten inscription of the word “MANILA” flashed on screen right before the lights brightened and the band members set foot on stage, appearing as silhouettes one by one

And then, voices singing the first few lines of the opening song, a cappella, flooded the speakers: ‘Lang-hiyang pag-ibig ‘yan/ Ang dami mong isusugal/ Kung balak mo akong iwan/ Oh, ba’t mo pa ‘ko minahal?

This was followed by strings, percussion, and pandemonium from the audience that lasted for hours into the show.

Ben& Ben had earlier released an image showing a 25-song setlist that included the runaway hit “Maybe the Night,” the Christmas offering “Bibingka,” the recently released “Dear,” and the lyrically compelling “Kapangyarihan.” The band promptly delivered, each song performed with as much—or probably even more—gusto and passion than in previous shows. Key words from the songs’ lyrics flashed on the screens as the they performed.

The band also performed a previously unreleased single. “This next song is about love, and it’s called ‘Comets,’” said Miguel, before strumming the opening chords.

Ben&Ben collaborated with some of OPM’s rising stars during the concert. KZ Tandingan graced the stage for an emotional rendition of “Sabel” while Juan Karlos Labajo and Zild Benitez lent their talents for a moving performance of “Lunod,” a song about mental health.

For a few minutes, the spotlight focused exclusively on percussionists Toni Muñoz and Andrew de Pano as they took the lead and sang “Pasalubong,” whose original, recorded version includes vocals by songstress Moira deal Torre.

No major concert of Be&Ben would ever be complete without seeing the band play—and the audience sing in unison to—“Kathang Isip” and “Ride Home,” which were both reserved for the tail-end of the show. Inching closer to the encore, the band played “Dahilan” and “Fall.”

Finally, Miguel said, “We have one last song for all of you. Para sa bawat sang naniniwala ng tunay na pagmamahal, at ganito and pagmamahal naming sa inyo—pipiliin namin kayo!

It was amazing to hear a crowd of at least 50,000 harmoniously sing the opening lines to “Araw-Araw” as thousands of people waved their arms and raised their mobile phones to cover the festival grounds in a sea of mini-lanterns, followed by fireworks. The moment was magical, or to borrow a repeatedly sung word from the song’s chorus, indeed mahiwaga.

Ben&Ben’s homecoming concert was initially a lesson in patience that transformed into a stellar live music experience. Had the band members not overcompensated with their performances, fans would have gone home with glum expressions on their faces, not the dreamy and satisfied look in their eyes as they walked out of the venue.

The show, despite its grandeur and obviously high production cost, was also a reminder of the little things you appreciate in gigs held at smaller venues: genuine emotions reflected on the artist’s faces, seeing a musician’s hand and finger movement producing raw sound, and the human connection that happens when eyes of the performers and someone from the audience meet. These rarely happen in large-scale concerts, so if you want to support artists, support them even while they still play in intimate venues that still let you experience the deeply personal little things. It’s the artist and the music you’re after, anyway.


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