Watching “Iconic,” the sold-out concert topbilled by Megastar Sharon Cuneta and Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez at Resorts World Manila (RWM) last June 17 and 18, is as much a heartwarming trip down memory lane as it is a celebration of the Filipino performers’ prodigious skill, artistic sensitivity and top-notch musicality.
First staged at the Big Dome three years ago, the two-night show, mounted to jump-start the songstresses’ nine-city US tour—set to begin in California on July 17—has been retrofitted from a slam-bang spectacle at the Big Dome to a more intimate affair at RWM’s Marriott Grand Ballroom worthy of its performers’ legacy as true-blue OPM legends.
On its opening salvo, the show, weighed down by a couple of false stops-and-starts that a more intensive pickup rehearsal can’t fix, was far from perfect. But it’s easy to see why the show is more than the sum of its unpolished parts.
For one, its stars’ larger-than-life presence and musicality—along with those of musical directors Louie Ocampo and Raul Mitra—are unrivaled.
Helmed by Paolo Valenciano, the concert boasts an inspired lineup, with Regine kicking off the opening duet of Sharon’s hits with a sublime rendition of “Pangarap na Bituin,” a signature song culled from the Megastar’s 1984 film, “Bukas Luluhod ang Mga Tala.”
The tune, coupled with the Songbird’s “You are My Song” (from 1996’s “Wanted: Perfect Mother”), was a heartwarming memento of the years in the mid-’80s and late ’90s when Sharon and Regine were respectively lording it over as local Tinseltown’s premier singer-actresses.
In those days, Sharon and Regine were each fielding one theme song-enhanced blockbuster movie after another, like “Bituing Walang Ningning,” “Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas” and “Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin?” (for Sharon) and “Dahil May Isang Ikaw” and “Do Re Mi” (for Regine).
There was as much entertainment as nostalgia as Sharon and Regine took turns singing heartwarming stanzas from the former’s gorgeously pieced together early hits, “Mr. DJ,” “High School,” “P.S. I Love You” and “Dear Heart”—which easily transported us back to our youth.
Country’s best singer
Wary of the overstaying coronavirus in our midst, we often avoid overcrowded gatherings these days, unless they’re work-related. But we dragged our teenage niece, Gaea, to the concert so she could see for herself what a treat and a thrill it is to watch a live performance by Regine—a singer who, like Barbra Streisand or Michael Bublé, never sings the same song twice.
After all, despite her own admission in interviews that her steely pipes are no longer as invincible as it used to be, Regine has remained the country’s (or the world’s) best singer, bar none—as Sharon herself declared.
Truth is, Regine at her worst is still someone whose power and seamlessly inventive runs no local singer can even dream of matching or duplicating—and that’s no hyperbole. So, it’s always a tall order for anybody to share the stage with her.
In instances like this, Reg is often noticed generously “holding back” and judiciously adjusting to her duet partner—except perhaps in that rare instance in a variety show years ago when she had to “grudgingly” sing with a reportedly cocky member of a once-famous boyband. But we’re digressing.
Having said that, Sharon is no Megastar for no reason. Acknowledging an early struggle with her voice, the movie queen, who’s known for always wearing her heart on her sleeve, apologized for it during the early part of the concert because, as she explained, she hasn’t sung in front of a live audience in more than two years.
But as with any of the projects that she takes part in, Sharon brings with her a treasure trove of experiences, groundbreaking accomplishments and a measure of “mega”-sized mystique that make her shows extra special.
For her part, the consistently deferential Regine assured Sharon that no apology was required “because you’re the Megastar”—whose “Mr. DJ,” the former said, was among the first songs she learned to memorize as a singing hopeful.
Besides, while it’s true that Regine’s technique and mastery of her voice are beyond match, Sharon herself has stacked up a very long string of hits courtesy of a singing style that brings out the heart and soul of any song she sings. “Sagad hanggang buto,” as both critics and her admiring fans used to say.
In her hit-making heyday, you simply couldn’t listen to a Sharon recording and not be moved by her smoldering expressiveness or the potency of her storytelling ability.
In our view, the apology was also unnecessary because Sharon’s voice is just the type that needs some warming up—as the show soon demonstrated. Later in the concert, Sharon turned Regine’s “Sana Maulit Muli”—a brave choice, appropriately arranged to her range—and Ben&Ben’s “Leaves” on their heads and made them uniquely her own.
Regine also didn’t disappoint in her numbers, delivering a haunting new iteration for “Dadalhin” or a crackerjack version of “‘Di Ka Nag-iisa” (from “Ang Probinsyano”). She is just as unforgettable singing the second voice or the higher part of a harmony.
More than anything, getting the two singers to perform together in a touring show is no mean feat because, while theirs are distinctive voices that don’t always blend, listening to them—individually or together—is never not compelling. It’s a task that requires them to keep their egos off the stage.
Adding magic to the stellar proceedings is the participation of their special guest, Asia’s Queen of Songs Pilita Corrales who, at 84, could still reach the money notes on the glorious “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” and her hit song “A Million Thanks to You.”
For their fans, Sharon and Regine sang the songs that helped catapult them to singing superstardom, shuttling with ease from one beloved hit to another: “I-Swing Mo Ako,” “Sana’y Maghintay ang Walang Hanggan,” “Maging Sino Ka Man,” “Pangako sa ‘Yo,” “Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas,” “Bituing Walang Ningning” and “Ikaw” (for Sharon), and “Urong Sulong,” “Araw Gabi,” “Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka” (for Regine)—it was hard resisting the urge to sing along with them!
In a time of uncertainty and chaos, listening to songs that put a big smile on your face is a spirit-lifting blessing that is deeply appreciated.
Beyond the warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia from those songs, the audience was treated to the duo’s covers of more contemporary hits from the popular likes of Moira dela Torre (“Paubaya,” “Tagpuan,” etc.), The Juans (“Istorya”), The Eraserheads (“Pare Ko,” “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” etc.) and Kamikazee (“Narda”).
The last song led to a discussion of how Sharon (“Pinaikut-ikot nila ako at binitin”) and Regine (“Wala akong bato”) brought their versions of Darna to life—in the 1986 and 2003 movie adaptations of “Captain Barbell,” respectively.
If the viewers who trooped to the concert that night were an indication, the upcoming touring show seems guaranteed a successful run ahead—not just because of the superstar singers starring in it, but also because of the unifying power of their shared music.
Sharon acknowledged the presence of newly elected Sen. Robin Padilla (“Dapat huwag kayong mag-away ni Kiko, ha?”) and outgoing Secretary Salvador Panelo (“We should sing ‘Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas’ together”). Such refreshing candor!
As if on cue, the Megastar, just before she and Regine launched into the concert’s wildly catchy encore numbers, pleaded with the crowd that it was time to stop the bickering brought about by the country’s deeply polarizing political situation.
Sharon pointed out, “The elections are over—it’s time for all of us to come together.” INQ
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