REVIEW | GetMusic NU Rock Years was a memorable reunion of music heroes

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Ebe Dancel and Ely Buendia. (Photos by Jill Tan Radovan/InterAksyon)

Nostalgia always feels good, especially when it involves the most revered heroes of your youth.

The GetMusic NU Rock Years, presented by Smart Music Live and made possible by MCA Music, attempted to satiate the cravings of the listeners of the defunct radio station by bringing together five acts that rocked the NU107 airwaves in a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The Itchyworms warmed up the Smart Araneta Coliseum audience, rendering one jukebox-worthy hit after another. Frontman Jugs Jugueta expressed his amusement when members of the audience cheered their performance of “Antipara,” the Itchyworms’ first ever single, and hinted that he could guess how old the people in the crowd were, based on their response to that song alone.

Itchyworms. (Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/InterAksyon)

As expected, the band performed their latter, more popular hits, such as “Beer,” “Akin Ka Na Lang,” and “Penge Naman Ako Niyan.” The band’s catchy songs and jolly infectious vibe put the audience in high spirits early into the evening.

Next on stage was the ageless Barbie Almabis, who walked us through the different phases of her career. She opened her set with “Money for Food,” a track from the Barbie’s Cradle 1999 album “Music from the Buffet Table.”

She also sang “Tabing Ilog,” a Tagalog song which was used as part of the soundtrack of the teen-oriented series of the same title, as well as “Say Goodbye,” a track form her 2014 album, “My New Heart.”

The audience was clearly pleased to see Barbie perform, what with her lovely and eternally youthful voice singing beautifully written songs, and her captivating stage presence. Barbie’s set would have been perfect if not for the technical glitches that killed the sound from Barbie’s guitar and microphone more than a couple of times. Tech issues resurfaced a few more times during Ebe and Ely’s set.

Barbie Almalbis and Rivermaya. (Photos by Jill Tan Radovan/InterAksyon)

Her passion for performing hasn’t waned one bit. She is a ball of pure positive energy during her guitar solos and duels with bassist and brother-in-law Karel Honasan — whose exceptional, jaw-dropping bass guitar playing stole the show more than a couple of times.

She sang “Firewoman” with the same, or perhaps even more fervor, than she did early in her music career. She was lively as ever as her band performed “Torpe,” which, like “Firewoman,” is a song from her days as a Hungry Yung Poet.

Rivermaya, whose latest reincarnation is the most promising we’ve seen in a long time, played the band’s most loved hits. They started off with “Elesi;” raised the level of energy on stage one more notch with “Faithless;” and calmed the audience with “You’ll Be Safe Here.”

There was also “Manila,” the first single from “Sa Kabila ng Lahat,” its latest album. “Awit ng Kabataan” segued into a few lines of Gary Valenciano’s “Di Bale Na Lang.”

Guitarists Mark Escueta and Mike Elgar, as well as bassist Nathan Azarcon, shared vocal duties all throughout their set, and while their vocal chops are more often than not satisfying, one can’t help but wonder if one of them will step up and pour his entire soul into being Rivermaya’s frontman.

Ebe Dancel. (Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/InterAksyon)

Ebe Dancel seemed to be in a state of melancholy during his set, which on its own is full of drama considering the lyrical content of his songs, particularly the ones released when he was still part of Sugarfree.

As always, it was devastating to listen to “Kwarto,” “Prom,” “Mariposa,” and one of the most painful breakup anthems there is — “Burnout.” “Telepono” and “Hari ng Sablay” were more cheerful, at least.

People sang along and Ebe had the liberty to get off the mic for a few minutes and let the crowd take over some vocal parts. Considering that most, if not all of the people who attended were from the NU107 era, they weren’t equally as responsive when Ebe Sang “Huwag Kang Iiyak,” a song used as part of the “Ang Probinsyano” soundtrack.

When you put up a NU107-themed show and you include Ely Buendia as part of the artist line-up, you know that people will expect him to sing Eraserheads songs — and he did.

The first few songs seemed devoid of all emotion, however. “Alapaap” didn’t give the kind of high an Eheads fan would expect; and there wasn’t any joy in “Ligaya” at all. It all felt obligatory and mechanical at first, as if Ely had outgrown singing them altogether. He seemed to liven by the time he performed “Magasin,” though, and the crowd responded favorably.

Ely Buendia. (Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/InterAksyon)

Nevertheless, Ely did a marvelous job of re-claiming his old hits, with some remarkable tweaks and surprising twists on the arrangements. Having a roster of talented musicians, which included veteran guitarist Nitoy Adriano, Apartel drummer Pat Sarabia, Mr. Bones and the Boneyard Circus bassist Carissa Ramos, as well as a pianist, brass section, and backup singers to support him that evening, made it easy for Ely to transform the songs and pull it off.

The drum patterns were obviously altered in a couple of songs, and on that particular evening, the Eraserheads’ pop ditties were infused with sprinkles of soul and jazz. The additional piano parts in “Spoliarium” and “Ang Huling El Bimbo” were, to borrow a line from the latter, “nakakatindig balahibo.”

More people deserved to see this concert, but it seemed that not too many people knew about it. The performers kept thanking NU 107 throughout the show, but save for the inclusion of chart-topping hits and previous NU Rock Awards footage, GetMusic NU Rock Years didn’t feel like an NU 107 event. The inclusion of more bands and inviting some of the station’s former disk jockeys might have lent it an authentic NU107 vibe, and made it more than a reunion of rock acts from yesteryears.