MANILA -- When the 36-year-old Side A band staged its first major concert in a big venue since the pandemic, even the sky smiled down on them.
It was a stroke of a genius perhaps to have the past and present members of Side A take the stage for the first time in a back-to-back, full-length concert last Saturday at Newport World Resorts.
Last April, the present members merely guested in the concert of the original Side A members at 19 East in Parañaque City. That gave them the idea to perform onstage together in the much-awaited show, “Side A: Then and Now, Redux 360-Degree Experience” directed by Lito Fugoso, who collaborated with the Gonzalez brothers Rodel and Naldy.
Two drummers were admirably onstage -- Mar Dizon of the original group and Ernie Severino from the present batch -- when the concert started.
Lead singers Rodel Gonzalez, Pido Lalimarmo, Yubs Esperat and Leevon Cailao were strumming their guitars. Joey Benin and Ned Esguerra were on the bass, while Naldy Gonzalez, the only remaining original member who is still with the present batch, was on keyboards. Notably missed was US-based Side A original bassist Kelly Badon, who was not able to join them.
Before the 10 singer-musicians started performing, they briefly displayed their expertise in the instruments they were respectively playing, much to the delight of the full-house audience.
Then, they gave the crowd “Di Pa Huli,” an original ditty penned by Rodel Gonzalez three decades ago. Throughout the concert, the members dished out memorable tunes of Side A, like “Eva Marie,” their debut single released in 1989 that Benin wrote for the love of his life.
They also rendered “So Many Questions” and “Aking Awitin.” Too bad, the popular “Hold On” was not in their line-up that night.
“This concert will not happen without you,” Rodel acknowledged the audience. Then, Side A broke out to “Biggest Part of Me,” “Reminiscing” and Toto’s “Rosanna,” Top 40 songs that made it to their repertoire in the ‘90s.
The original Side A took centerstage and rendered a few songs that they sang in their Calesa Bar days – “Hey 19,” “Your Smiling Face” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”
However, there were other originals that made it to their repertoire – “Sana Naman,” “Forever Stay, “I Believe in Dreams,” “Misty Glass, Windows,” “Pain in My Heart,” “Set You Free” and Lalimarmo’s haunting “Windows of Our Souls.”
Aside from being merely performers, Side A members are also musicians and songwriters, who churn out original tunes to this day. Their old hits were reimagined and are now available on Patreon, a membership platform that carries content.
No wonder, they consistently upload new tunes that they wrote, like Benin’s pandemic composition, “O, Diyos Ko,” Esguerra’s environmental song “(Ibigin ang) Mundo” and the beautiful, new ballad, “Clueless,” which will be released soon.
“Kung si Joey may sinulat para sa girlfriend niya, meron din ako,” Naldy’s introduction to the Side A hit that he wrote, “Sana Naman.”
For the first time, singer-songwriter Clara Benin joined Side A onstage. While she merely watched from the sidelines before, she was truly honored that she got to perform onstage this time with the artists whom she truly respects.
With Rodel, Clara rendered her original song, “Wine,” while she showed everyone how she wrote and delivered “Blink” for the audience that night.
One song that is Clara’s favorite “in the whole world” was Side A’s “Tila,” which she rendered with its songwriter Cailao. She remembered putting the song on her iPad when she was merely in fifth grade.
Side A gave a special treat to their audience with the tunes of prolific songwriter Randy Goodrum and crooned such hits as Toto’s “I’ll Be Over You,” Michael Johnson’s “Bluer Than Blue” and Steve Perry’s “Foolish Heart,” a song that Side A also recorded.
Meanwhile, local songwriter Dingdong Eduque, who was in the audience that night, gave Side A such hits as “Forever Stay” and “Set You Free,” which the 63-year-old Rodel impressively belted out.
“Grabe. Ang galing. Walang piyok,” remarked an amazed lady beside this writer.
Of course, how can “Forevermore” not make it to the concert repertoire that night. The ballad, which Benin gave the audience back in 1998, was reimagined to date by a number of singers.
“Forevermore” was turned into a 2002 film (starring Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa) and even a 2014 teleserye with the popular love team of Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.
That Saturday night, Benin even rendered a Tagalog version of “Forevermore,” much to the thrill of Side A fans.
They ended the concert with one of their biggest OPM hits, “Tuloy Pa Rin.”
The Newport World Resorts concert culminated Side A’s series of weekend shows this month that started in Ilocos Norte, then moved to Cebu City.
After more than three decades of performing and doing music, Side A is still at it. Undoubtedly. The original members may have gone their respective ways, but they have obviously not given up on what they love to do.
Immediately after the concert, the Side A members did a groufie onstage. The audience near the stage immediately joined them and took their respective snaps on their phone cameras. Proof that the guys were visibly missed by their fans.