MANILA, Philippines — It’s been said that rock is dead yet “Ugat: Ang Himig Natin” held at Araneta Coliseum last Dec. 3 prove that the naysayers are wrong.
The concert, a gathering of the “pillars” of local rock music namely Sampaguita, Pepe Smith, Mike Hanopol and Wally Gonzales, along with folk heroes Lolita Carbon, Florante, Gary Granada, Heber Bartolome and Noel Cabangon, confirm that rock, as we know it around these parts, is still, well, alive and kicking.
But not in a manner that could knock out bulls. The assembly got game but the rust did show.
Showing the wear and tear afforded by the years is Carbon, who, very early in the program, had to strain for the high notes of “Pagbabalik.” She made up for it later by allowing for a couple of banshee –like shrieks that loosened her vocal chords somewhat enough to do a fantastic “Himig Ng Pag-ibig” and “Usok.”
Sampaguita, the “Queen of Pinoy Rock,” had to pause and catch her breath a couple of times even as she tried to muster enough strength to run the span of the stage. She who once mesmerized Eric Clapton [among other “rock gods”] is still pleasing to the eye but without a doubt, in a manner that is far from erotic, what with her girth aptly reminding one of Aretha Franklin.
That said, Sampaguita retained the “sex” in her voice allowing for more than commendable versions of “Bonggahan,” “Nosi Ba Lasi” and “Sa Diyos Lamang.”
Hanopol, meanwhile, looked like he enjoys less and less, the life as a rock and roll hero, ever since he found God. And this showed in the way he delivered his songs, which seemed to have lost their bite more so their implication.
Not that the man played ineptly. Hanopol it seems is an even better guitarist and vocalist now than he ever was in his “Jeproks” heyday. But with his faraway look, his seemingly detached singing, Hanopol gave this spectator reason to think that he is only too eager to finish his set and go home.
Similarly allowing for a seeming disconnect with the audience is Bartolome. But unlike Hanopol, he did try his darndest. He even had a young kid rap over his anthem, “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy.” Pulling out all stops, he had his band mates pull-out forks and spoons and bang on them for the classic, “Almusal,” though, nobody, it seemed, was in the mood to celebrate their “ilong na pango” or think about “tuyo at tinapa.”
Making the right connection and far from looking like he is ready to give it all up is Pepe Smith.
Still very much the whirling dervish, he delivered a set that had lot more sneer than a young John Lydon. It’s not the singing or the manner by which he plays his guitar, for he did both as brash and trashy, but it’s the enthusiasm that’s contagious, compelling.
Enjoying the love of the crowd as much as Smith was Granada, who played his songs as earnestly as he could. It’s as if he is apologizing for his inclusion in the line-up.
“Hindi ko alam kung bakit andito ako. Hindi naman ako legend, papunta pa lang,” he explained as the crowd roared in apparent approval.
Humorous banter aside, Granda played impeccably. So much so that he was the first in the line-up to have been urged to return for more numbers after delivering “Kahit Konti,” “Mabuti Pa Sila” and “Holdap.”
The crowd made obvious that they missed Florante, as they likewise asked more songs from him after the latter did his requisite three songs, which included, “Pinay,” “Ako’y isang Pinoy,” and “Si Tatang.”
Both didn’t oblige. And with reason.
After Cabangon played his numbers which included the popular, “Pana-panahon,” and “Ako’y Isang Mabuting Pilipino,” Granada, Florante and the rest of the assembly joined him for a cringe-inducing finale.
The organizers had the concert ending ever-so-cheesily, with everyone coming out on stage singing each other’s songs and doing a “We Are The World”-like take on “Ang Himig Natin.”
In the end, it isn’t as if “Ugat…” would have worried Charice Pempengco and her ilk. Though it made rock look far from being dead, it sadly did more than its share in emphasizing how it had grown tired and old.