Concert review: Original Side A band finally goes live onstage

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at May 22 2022 10:15 AM

The original Side A band. Eric S. Capacia
The original Side A band. Eric S. Capacia

MANILA -- Side A is old. The original members, who grouped together and formed the band 35 years ago, unabashedly acknowledged that fact.

After only the fourth song, James Taylor’s “Your Smiling Face,” in their recent live concert, “Redux 360: A Side A Experience,” at 19 East, they had to stop momentarily to briefly talk to the audience.

“Dati, we could sing 30 songs in one night,” recalled lead singer Rodel Gonzales, who reminisced about their stints at Hyatt’s Calesa Bar in the early '90s. “Tonight, fourth song pa lang, pagod na.”

The Side A guys were candid about their ages, even without revealing the actual numbers. They went onstage with their white mane obviously visible from afar. They didn’t mind.

“Nakatulong naman ang Memo Plus sa atin,” bassist Joey Benin teased, referring to the pill for memory enhancement and information retention.

Yet, Side A never disappoints whenever they’re onstage. They still crooned their ballads with their unmistakable tone, hardly missing a beat. Old is perhaps just a mere adjective to literally describe them. Old is never in their performance nor in their voices.

The band opened the concert to a full-house crowd with the familiar strains they rendered before at Calesa Bar – “Reminiscing,” “I Just Wanna Stop” and “Hurt.”

Everybody was in high spirits. Not only the guys onstage – including vocalist Pido Lalimarmo, drummer Mar Dizon, keyboardist Naldy Gonzales – but the audience, as well, who waited for years before the reunion happened.

The two-night concert didn’t need any publicity. It only took an announcement on Side A’s Facebook page first week of March and tickets were sold out in no time.

The first hit that Benin wrote, “Eva Marie,” was heard live again that weekend. Of course, most Side A fans know that it's a song Benin penned for his wife of more than three decades now, who was in the audience that night.

Benin also rendered “Sara,” a song he wrote for his youngest daughter. He also wrote a song, “Clara’s Eyes,” for his eldest daughter, although that was not in the concert repertoire that night.

Side A not only regaled the SRO crowd that night with the standards and hits like “Hold On,” “Tuloy Pa Rin,” “Di Pa Huli.” They also gave the audience a sample of their own compositions, like Lalimarmo’s “Windows of Our Souls” (included in the first “Side A Redux” album released last year) and Leevon Cailao’s haunting Tagalog ballad, “Ibigin ang Mundo” (which the band did for the recent Earth Day special).

Midway into the concert, Gonzales smilingly announced, “At some point, magpapahinga muna ang mga lolo niyo.”

The present line-up of Side A members, the third generation, led by soloist Yubs Esperat, who replaced Joey Generoso, took over onstage.

Esperat was joined by Cailao (guitar), Ned Esguerra (bass), with second generation member Ernie Severino (drums).

Cailao, in fact, had been onstage from the start of the “Redux Live” concert as he pinch-hitted for Side A’s original bassist, Kelly Badon, who failed to join the group as he was in the US. But Badon was in the first two “Redux” concerts.

For the second set, the original and new generation Side A members joined onstage and started with the new vibe of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” led by Gonzales, Lalimarmo and Esperat.

By the time Side A rendered Hall and Oates’ “Out of Touch,” the ladies in the audience stood up and started dancing. The audience was singing with them. At nearly midnight, the crowd was still on high energy.

When Side A did the best of the Doobie Brothers – “Listen To the Music,” “Takin’ It To the Streets,” “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “What A Fool Believes” – Severino displayed his being an ace drummer all throughout the well-applauded medley, much to the excitement of the audience. 

Much awaited, as always, in any Side A concert is Benin’s popular ballad, “Forevermore,” rendered initially in Tagalog for the first time, thanks to a female YouTube singer that caught the attention of Benin.

“Forevermore,” believe it or not, is 26 years old. In “Redux Calesa 2nd Set” concert last September 2021, “Forevermore” was rendered as a composer’s version and Benin gave it a different arrangement.

Side A’s erstwhile manager, Lito Fugoso was instrumental in making the first “Redux” virtual concert happened in January 2021. He came in and started negotiating again for the group and arranged their schedules.

Even when Wyngard Tracy, Side A’s original manager, was still around, Fugoso was already helping out Side A then.

The band initially planned to close the “Redux 360: A Side A Experience” with “Forevermore.” However, since the audience would not budge, Side A graciously obliged to a few more songs, wrapping up with “Tuloy Pa Rin Ako.”

Side A remains relevant and much sought-after even after 35 years. Hence, a live concert in a bigger venue is expected to be staged this year, gathering the original members again.

It is brilliant to combine the second and third generation members with the original pack. It will be nice if Joey Generoso will be in the line-up. That should push through, too.