Roaring applause for a LegendBy Allan Policarpio | Philippine Daily Inquirer 10:00 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
One of his earliest shows, John Legend recounted, was in a small live-music venue where he played for an audience of three. “Five, if you count the bartenders,” he said on Friday night during his concert at Smart Araneta Coliseum, drawing laughter from the crowd of, this time around, thousands.
As one might expect from a show titled “Intimate. Acoustic. Stripped Down,” the setup was kept to a minimum. Apart from the mock black grand in the middle of the stage, nary a single prop was in sight. There were no fancy lights, either; no billowing smoke, no rains of confetti.
There was no need for all that, anyway. Legend’s voice did all the work, and then some.
To a passage of swaying music from the string quartet, Legend emerged onstage, arms outstretched and looking dapper in a cream-colored blazer.
After a minute or two reveling in the packed crowd’s ardent profession of love, the American R&B/neosoul singer settled at the piano to open the show, tickling the ivories and jerking his feet to “Made to Love.”
His second song, “Tonight (Best You Ever Had),” was a heady bop that had Legend crooning flirtatiously to the sultry beat—airy, whispery notes and sweet falsettos. “I don’t want to brag. Or maybe I do. I’ll be the best you’ve ever had.”
Before proceeding, Legend told the audience about some challenges he faced as a new struggling artist. In 1998, when he was a college student at the University of Pennsylvania, he was introduced to R&B-soul artist Lauryn Hill, who invited him to collaborate with her.
He played the piano for the song “Everything is Everything” in her album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” He related, “It was my first little break; I thought it would lead to bigger ones. But I didn’t get a record deal in 1998— not in 1999, 2000, 2001…”
After graduation, Legend landed in corporate work as a management consultant. At night, he toiled in the studio, recording demos or playing small gigs around New York.
Through a friend, Legend met his would-be mentor, rapper-record producer Kanye West, who featured the budding musician in different songs he was producing for other acts. Legend also became West’s “sidekick,” playing the piano and singing the hooks in the latter’s music.
He did as much for Jay-Z’s “Encore” and Slum Village’s “Selfish.” The crooner in the interlude in Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name”? Yup, that’s him.
Finally in 2004 came the record deal, which gave birth to his debut album, “Get Lifted.” Legend said, eliciting another round of chuckles: “I was turned down by a lot of major record labels, including the one I’m signed to now.”
While the overall mood was laid-back and mellow, the show’s pace was actually brisk. Before anyone noticed, he had zipped past fan favorites “Let’s Get Lifted,” “Used to Love U,” “Number One,” the anthemic “Save the Night” and “Maxine.”
A huge chunk of the audience consisted of couples, many of them celebs—Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Guidicelli; Angel Locsin and Luis Manzano; Maja Salvador and Gerald Anderson; Sarah Lahbati and Richard Gutierrez; Bela Padilla and Neil Arce, and Gretchen Ho and Robi Domingo.
What better way to put them in a romantic mood than with these:
From “PDA”: “I see you closing down the restaurant / Let’s sneak and do it when your boss is gone.”
From “Save Room”: “Don’t be afraid of a little bit of pain / Pleasure is on the other side.”
One big regret
Slinky melodies and all, Legend handled ’em with finesse and unflappable poise.
Performing “Green Light” and his cover of Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You,” he urged the crowd to stand up and dance. All the while, he strutted about, busting out a few moves of his own. Intermittently, he broke into vocal improvisations that elicited mad approval.
He barely broke a sweat.
Legend wistfully recalled his childhood, growing up in a Pentecostal church community surrounded by a family passionate about music—his grandfather was the pastor; his grandmother, the church organist; his mother, the choir director. His father sang and played the drums.
Sundays after service, Legend headed straight to his grandma’s. She would cook collard greens, chicken and cornbread, and then teach him how to play gospel piano. She died when he was 10. One big regret, he said, is that his grandmother did not witness his success.
“So now you hear a lot of my grandmother in me,” Legend said, before performing Simon and Garfunkel’s gospel-inflected song, “Bridge over Troubled Water.”
A hush fell over the crowd as he ran his fingers across the piano keys and delivered the elegantly phrased lyrics. His voice didn’t cut; rather, it bloomed as it ascended the scale, then dissolved into a soulful quiver that evoked pain and yearning.
Legend picked up the energy again with “You and I,” “Caught Up,” the slow buildup of the uplifting “So High” and his early hit, “Ordinary People,” which highlighted full and velvety vocal runs. After this suite, he rose to his feet. So did the spectators, who wouldn’t stop clapping and hooting.
His exit fooled no one and merely prompted chants of “More! More!” And after just a few seconds, Legend was back onstage, asking, “Can I sing one more song?” “Yes!” they hollered back, of course.
The opening strains of “All of Me” came on and the fans— who, up until then, had kept themselves composed—rushed to the stage, lugging cameras, to record Legend’s live performance of his first No. 1 song, dedicated to his wife, model Chrissy Teigen.
(“This song is about me telling my wife how much I love her,” he had told the Inquirer in an e-mail interview prior to the concert.)
A rousing sing-along had people draping their arms around their partners.
The show (mounted by Wilbros Live and BoardWorks Media) ended with the rapt crowd giving Legend a standing ovation yet again and roaring applause far more intense than fireworks.
‘Gotham,’ before the super-heroicsBy Oliver M. Pulumbarit | Philippine Daily Inquirer 9:00 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Batman and the rest of his DC Comics ilk get the prequel treatment in the dark and gritty “Gotham,” set several years before the appearance of the iconic Caped Crusader.
Prior to the series, DC character Superman was reimagined for TV via “Smallville,” which mostly chronicled the years prior to Clark Kent donning the costume. It lasted a whopping 10 seasons.
“Gotham” starts with a variation on a familiar tragedy: Young Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz) parents are killed by a masked mugger in a dark alley. This has been done countless times in the comics, cartoons and films, but this version is no less painful to see. This time, however, the young thief Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), the future Catwoman, is a silent witness to the grisly crime, and the case is investigated by cops James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue).
Gordon is quickly established as a noble detective, new to the world of compromises involving his police force, and the cops’ dealings with shady characters. He eventually butts heads with a gang leader, Fish Mooney (a mesmerizing Jada Pinkett Smith), with whom his partner Bullock is cozy.
Future villains are introduced as well. Apart from the future Catwoman, there are a few other characters that aren’t too subtly presented—whether they’re around future props or weaponry, or are exhibiting odd behavior already, the debuts are on the heavy-handed side. Nevertheless, they are intriguing components that add complexity.
“Gotham” has aesthetic consistency, in that it often sports a metallic blue hue to match its tone and coldness. But while the environments utilize a realistic edge, the artificiality of certain venues allows more imaginative sets and subworlds.
McKenzie, playing another cop so soon after the series “Southland,” fits as the idealistic and optimistic detective—qualities that will make the character a great commissioner someday (perhaps in this show’s final season).
Logue is surprisingly good as the jaded, cynical partner who understands the city’s complicated hidden politics. Still, Gordon’s presence may introduce positive changes to Bullock.
Pinkett Smith is also a pleasant surprise; the new, violent character Fish is interesting, thanks to the actress’ magnetic charm and semicampy disposition. A cool, alluring villain figure ultimately destined for doom (antagonists do help in making prequels engaging), Fish is being geared as instrumental to the ascent of a few other bad guys.
As with “Smallville,” it looks like this reimagining may speed up encounters between future enemies, so viewers should expect some drastic—possibly even more playful—deviations from the source material.
“Gotham” is visually sleek, and opts to focus mostly on the heroics of mere mortals—its initial episode
already presents regularly dressed do-gooders out to get (future) freakish fiends, a promising new chapter in—and an inevitable expansion of—the Dark Knight’s ever-shifting saga.
(“Gotham” airs Thursdays, 9 p.m. on WarnerTV.)
Catwalk fiasco hurts Coco Martin’s ad dealsBy Marinel R. Cruz | Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:58 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
MANILA, Philippines–While actor Coco Martin has apologized for his controversial appearance at “The Naked Truth,” a recent fashion show that had him on the ramp with a scantily clad female acrobat on a leash, in a role that shattered his “boy-next-door” image and drew flak from women’s groups who found the image offensive, his talent manager disclosed that at least three companies endorsed by the celebrity had expressed reluctance to work with him again due to the fiasco.
In a press conference Tuesday, Martin’s talent manager Biboy Arboleda said he sought Kapunan’s help in explaining the actor’s side after learning that three companies had expressed their intention not to work with Martin anymore as a result of the incident. He declined to name the companies.
“We asked for Attorney Lorna (Kapunan’s) help because of the threat to Coco’s other sources of income,” Arboleda said. “Let’s not make this worse. We are determined to move forward.”
In the same press conference, Martin’s lawyer Lorna Kapunan conveyed her client’s apology but explained that he was not involved in conceptualizing the production and appeared only once for rehearsal a day prior to the Sept. 20 show.
Kapunan said Martin had wanted to “voice out his concern” during the rehearsals but failed to do so because of the “language barrier,” noting that most of the show’s production team members were foreigners.
Earlier this week, Ben Chan, owner of the clothing company Bench which held the show at Mall of Asia Arena, issued an apology saying it was never the firm’s intention to offend anyone through the fashion show, which mainly promoted Bench’s underwear line.
In a Sept. 28 post on Instagram, Chan also clarified that Martin was only asked to portray “a character in a circus scene”—a ring master who has tamed a big cat. “We apologize for offending the sensitivities of some persons. We assure you that we shall always endeavor to uphold the dignity of people.”
According to Kapunan, the actor “sincerely expresses his apology and requests the public for understanding. Martin equally feels bad about the incident and is saddened at the thought that he unwittingly offended the public…. (He) humbly asks for the public’s understanding and assures them that he will no longer participate in a similar insensitive portrayal.”
The lawyer pointed out that the female model, a member of a Canadian circus troupe, “chose to do the act. It is possible that under her contract with Bench, she’s required to do so.”
The lawyer noted that the controversial segment was “not consistent with Coco’s boy-next-door image. I talked with him over breakfast and understood why women see him as an icon… Coco did not have the slightest intention on his mind to insult women. He assures the public that he will no longer participate in a similar insensitive portrayal (of women).”
“This should be a reminder to Bench to take care of its artists in times of distress. The artists don’t have the means to defend themselves. Bench should help in talking to all of Coco’s sponsors because his contracts with them have morality clauses,” Kapunan said. “It will be a sad thing if a good person like Coco loses his endorsements because of the insensitivity of a company that did not come to his rescue.”
Sibling revelry: Jessy and Pam MendiolaPhilippine Daily Inquirer 8:00 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Pam Mendiola on being compared to younger sister Jessy: “I’ve long accepted that I would be compared to her. Well, she joined show biz before me and her name is more familiar to Filipino audiences. That’s OK with me. She has earned this through hard work.”
On the upside, Pam added, “Thanks to her, it wasn’t hard for me to break into several projects. I never needed to go to so many tryouts.” Allan Policarpio
Cris Villonco: Sprint from Tondo to TorontoBy Bayani San Diego Jr. | Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:05 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
One fine day, Cris Villonco received a text from Bibeth Orteza, scriptwriter and wife of filmmaker Carlos Siguion-Reyna—the young actress’ uncle and director in the 2014 Cinemalaya Jury Prize winner “Hari ng Tondo” (opens today in cinemas).
As Orteza later recalled, the apologetic text message had said: “I am not taking you for granted ha, Cris. You have a talent fee for this film.”
“Actually, when I accepted the project,” Cris admitted, “I didn’t know whether I was getting paid or not.”
She was more than happy to join the cast of “Hari ng Tondo,” her and her uncle’s big-screen comeback.
“Seeing the logo of Reyna Films (the family’s production company) on the big screen again after 14 years made me cry during the gala,” she recounted.
Reyna Films was established by her grandmother Armida Siguion-Reyna who, for three decades, endeavored to produce films that were “out of the box.” She said, “Reyna Films has always been known for producing films that go against the norm.”
Villonco’s only other movie before “Hari ng Tondo” was a Fernando Poe Jr. action flick, “Ang Dalubhasa,” in 2000.
Between acting with Da King and working in “Hari,” she finished school (Sarah Lawrence College in New York, liberal arts) and acted in several plays.
Villonco’s faith in “Hari” paid off big time. She not only won best supporting actress in the Directors’ Showcase section of Cinemalaya, the movie also took her all the way to the Toronto (Canada) International Film Festival last month.
She recalled: “It was interesting to observe people of different nationalities who watched the film there. We were nervous about some scenes that might be deemed politically incorrect, but audiences got the humor. They tried to be polite, but the Filipinos in the theater could not, and would not, stop laughing.”
Moreover, the audience members were quite inquisitive and wanted to know more about Tondo and the film, Villonco related. “They asked if we actually shot in Tondo. The other cast members got to spend more time there. I had only one scene in Tondo and I was in a car! When we said the film was finished in 12 days, the audience applauded.”
She noted, “Latin Americans took a special liking to our film … probably because of our shared values and traditions.”
She summed up her Toronto experience as “surreal.”
“We had a pictorial with Getty Images,” she gushed. At one point she found herself in the same room as Hollywood stars Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman, Connie Britton, Dax Shepard and Tina Fey.
While lining up for a screening, she heard a familiar voice nearby.
It was Sandra Oh.
“She sounded and looked just as intimidating as her character Cristina Yang on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’” Villonco enthused.
In a forum she attended, the speaker was Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon. “Such an intelligent woman! She had so much to share in that one-hour session. She is an inspiration to those who want to achieve more in their creative communities.”
Villonco is grateful for the experience: “I took away much more than I expected … there were over 300 films in that festival that were open to the press, industry people and the general public. We bumped into high-profile celebrities, indie artists, seasoned and noted filmmakers and foreign journalists and bloggers,” she said.
Once back home, she headed straight to work.
She plays a contravida in her first TV outing, the GMA 7 afternoon series “Ang Lihim ni Annasandra,” which debuts on Oct. 6.
She was nervous about facing the cameras again. “I didn’t know what to expect. I know what it’s like to be a has-been. It was as if I was given a new lease on life. That’s why I value these opportunities all the more.”
She is aware that, for television, she has to tone down her theater-honed acting skills. “Smaller gestures. More modulated voice. I am still getting used to seeing myself on the screen (big and small).” It’s all part of the never-ending learning process.
Where does she plan to display her Cinemalaya trophy (which is still being engraved)?
“I don’t usually keep my awards,” she replied. “My Gawad Buhay (best actress in a musical for “D’Wonder Twins of Boac”) went to my dad. Maybe the Cinemalaya trophy will go to my mom.”