Thursday, July 8, 2010


RECENTLY, I got the chance to catch Bamboo’s outstanding performance at Encore during the second leg of the Rock N’ Rogue concert series. With a repertoire of greatest hits and their usual and surprising takes on Rivermaya classics (including an acoustic reading of “Ulan” and a rare performance of “Awit Ng Kabataan”) that Bamboo Mañalac himself originally sang lead on, the band brought the house down as expected and sounded even better (look up “spatialized”) with the high tech equipment provided by organizer JB Music.

Two years ago, I wrote a feature profile on Bamboo for the Manila Bulletin. Revisiting that piece, much of what I wrote about the band remains eerily spot-on. Excerpts:

There’s a reason why the band Bamboo stands head and shoulders above everyone else. Whether we’re just listening to their own soulful brand of groove-oriented rock in our iPods or are actually witnessing their mesmerizing intensity onstage, we know there’s simply no other combo quite like this quartet.

And several years after they first unleashed their now signature song, “Noypi” to an unsuspecting public and gave a then already comatose band scene a much needed jolt of consciousness, Bamboo has yet to get old, literally and figuratively. What keeps Bamboo Mañalac, Nathan Azarcon, Ira Cruz and Vic Mercado fresh, unpredictable and very much at the top of their game is their penchant to constantly reinvent themselves with every release, from the glorious riffs of “Hallelujah” to the rest of the refreshing fusion of rock, rap, jazz and yes, gospel in “Mr. Clay” and the rest of As The Music Plays.

They even managed to put their own stamp in the better-than-interesting cover versions (including an electrifying reading of Buklod's protest anthem, “Tatsulok” and a faithful-to-the-original rendering of Anak Bayan’s “Ang Probinsyana”) in an eclectic selection of big hits and cult classics in their latest offering, We All Stand Together.

Bamboo says the band's kinetic performances, constantly recognized with a regular inclusion in the NU Rock Awards’ Best Live Act category, is no accident. The charismatic frontman in fact admits that this is something that he at least, has wisely invested in. Yes, there is a conscious effort on the band’s part to put on a good show. “Our interaction with our crowd is something that we do care about,” he notes. “We know it's a long race.”

Although Nathan stresses that music, above all else, is still what Bamboo is all about. “It’s something that we’re very serious about,” he declares. “We’re trying many things out and we’ll see where this is going.

With influences as diverse as The Beatles for Ira, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest for Nathan, Frank Sinatra for Vic and everything in between for Bamboo, expecting the unexpected is more the rule rather than the exception for this band.

And not doing as the Romans do is probably why this band is always a step ahead of the competition and yes, continues to stand head and shoulders above everybody else.

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