“Please stop calling me Mr. Pure Energy…” Gary Valenciano seems serious about his request in front of the The Theater at Solaire crowd on the opening night of Gary V Presents‘ fifth and final (for now) season. He half-jokes about ageing (he turns 53 in August) and why there aren’t too many dance tunes in the show, and that he’s also known as a balladeer anyway. The audience laughs.
However at one point, just as Valenciano asked for his guests’ back stories, an audible beeping bled through the mics. It was emanating from his pants’ left back pocket. Without missing a beat, he jokes and ad-libs, “Here’s my back story, listen…” The beeping stops and he takes a device out of the pocket.
It was his insulin pump warning him for a blood sugar level check in the midst of the concert. Diabetes does not, cannot, will not wait. He addresses the device immediately, and then gets back into show mode.
His “no more Mr Pure Energy” request was, at least for the number, a sly tease as the Maneouvres–long associated with Valenciano and his fluid footwork– join him on “Look In Her Eyes.” Together they can all put dancers twenty, even thirty years their junior, to shame, locked step for locked step; in fact, Gary’s moves were so tight he actually out-Maneouvered (pun intended) the Zamora-brothers-led quintet around him. AND he was singing.
Valenciano thanks the Maneouvres as he catches his breath… and you do feel that he was not entirely kidding. His insulin pump will beep again later before a slow number.
The show opened with a soulful solo set by Allan “Daddy A” Silonga who initially was tapped to replace an unavailable Tim Pavino during a previous run of Gary V Presents. Silonga rejoined the ensemble for the Michael Jackson Medley closing number and encore.
With Katrina Velarde, Valenciano scat-libbed with the “Suklay Diva” on a firing-on-all-cylinders rendition of “Spain” plumbing the depths and scaling the heights of his vocal range (yep, much like his hero, the late Al Jarreau) as she responded with her own volcanic intensity. Their improvisations swung hard.
In the show’s “serious” theatre-worthy numbers, his timbre matches those of Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Jimmy Marquez, RJ De La Fuente, and Tim Pavino with seamless harmonies and vocal exchanges.
He comped on the keys for Lara Maigue‘s spot, a seamless mashup of the latter’s “Sa Yo Na Lang Ako” and his own hit “Kailangan Kita.”
His unerring sense of groove on the Zendrum (and beyond, really) provided the perfect foil for Bullet Dumas‘s turbocharged guitar-strumming, propelling “Babalik Ka Rin” to a toe-curling intensity. Dumas’ piercing nasal wail is distinctive, but Valenciano adjusted, as he always does, as he steps to the forefront and back.
“Be like water” Bruce Lee once said; Gary behaves so. His guests challenged him, and he challenges them right back. And this of course is where the best collaborations reside.
From the overt spiritual cry of “Could You Be Messiah” to the secular playfulness of the medley dubbed Jackson Battle near the end, the performers handled every note with care and controlled abandon where needed. There were also middling gems such as the slight reworking of “Di Bale Na Lang.” The song’s original synthesiser parts were covered by human vocals, particularly the original tinkly four-note motif now rendered by Maigue in her classically-trained soprano register which hinted at a zarzuela vibe. All voices in tow, it now felt like a barkada gently comforting a friend-zoned buddy as opposed to the original’s paean to defeat and lone concession.
“What More Can I Say” turned from a break-up song to a father-daughter dialogue with Kiana Valenciano who clearly got her vocal prowess from both parents (momager Angeli was one of the vocalists for Music&Magic in the early-eighties) with dance moves from her dad.
All too aware of the hilarious memes surrounding his OTT version of Ebe Dancel‘s “Wag Ka Nang Umiyak,” he tells the audience, “I want you to listen to lyrics of this beautiful song that Ebe wrote… and when you start crying, it’s my turn to laugh at you!”
Valenciano pointed out the obvious talents of all his guests, most witnessed by the masses through high-profile televised competitions and said, “Some of them were promised certain things that somehow didn’t always materialise.” He was not accusatory; he was reminding people that someone like, say, Mitoy Yonting was once in the public’s eye and voting finger. The show is meant to remind people of these prodigious talents whom he believes “deserve so much more.”
Yonting and Valenciano then soared on “Natutulog Ba Ang Diyos.” Yonting’s old-school sense of humour helped relieve some of the potential overt emotional displays as did Janice Javier‘s jokes about her own corpulence. The latter’s soulful bluesy melismas and light-as-a-feather moves, truthfully, rendered the self-deprecating asides unnecessary. “Hataw Na” indeed.
Valenciano went on to say–without providing specifics or dwelling on the subject– that there will be “changes ahead for Gary V as a performer” but he will still be around making music beyond his current 34th year in the business. Musically, it is easy to agree with: Valenciano after all has always had a funky soulfulness and pop sense–that his contemporaries lack or perhaps have little interest in anyway– and he can cut it with younger cats. He is no relic; he can be as current as Bruno Mars. He even looks at least twenty-five years younger than his rightfully tito-tita generation for whom “pop-and-lock” refers to aching joints and not precision dance moves.
Perhaps he really has to give up the nom de guerre due to his health battles–offstage and even onstage—but judging from how he harmonises personally and musically with his guests, Valenciano clearly will always have something to offer. Hataw pa.
The final shows for Gary V Presents happen this weekend on May 20 and 21 at The Theater, Solaire.