It’s hard to imagine life without an Eraserheads song. This band from the 90’s has been one of the greatest forces in Original Pinoy Music, influencing legions of singers and bands for the years to come. Simply put, Eraserheads was (and is still is for some) the music of my generation and I’m pretty sure every 90’s kid will agree. So when me and my friends heard that Ely was coming to Cebu, it was only a matter of time before we grab hold of those tickets.
I must admit, I haven’t bought any E-heads album nor do I have any of their songs on my playlist (which I regret and now I do have them on repeat). But I’d be lying if I said I don’t know their songs by heart. The Eraserheads catalogue has been a staple on the radio and in every Karaoke bar I’ve ever been to. When you’re done rearranging the notes for Dancing Queen and raptured every single vocal cord for I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing, you know you gotta sing some E-heads.
But of all their hits, “Ang Huling El Bimbo” is easily the most identifiable in a career that spanned for more than a decade. So when I finally came to realize that I was going to see it sung live by the band’s front man, Ely Buendia himself, I knew I was going to die a happy man.
NOTE: Technically, this was a Rico Blanco/Ely Buendia concert. But after seeing Rico’s set, I decided that I was just going to shut up about it, extract the memory from my brain, lock it in a box and throw it somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. It was bad.
I’ll have to say though, I was surprised to see Lady Gaga on Rico’s behalf.
And now, back to Ely.
SET 1: REGENESIS
Ely Buendia comes into stage and the crowd goes berserk. Looking sharp in a tux, it seemed to me like Ely was ready to slay. He started with a set of not so familiar songs (at least for me). These were probably from his new band Pupil or some obscure tracks from previous albums, I’m not certain. At this point, the true fanatics stood up from the crowd singing to the lyrics of these songs by heart. A couple more songs into the set and no El Bimbo. He’s saving the best for last.
SET 2: A TIDE OF NOSTALGIA
This was a delightful change of pace. By this point, the crowd was on their feet, chanting the lyrics of more familiar hits like “With A Smile” and “Huwag Mo Nang Itanong”. These songs have been covered ad nauseam from Juris to South Border but nothing truly compares to the original. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that “Maling Akala” is an E-heads original. Ely then continued to sing a few more songs like “Alapaap” and “Maselang Bahaghari”.
The crowd was excited when he offered to ask for requests from the audience and everyone just howled on their songs of choice. Finally, he sat down on a stool and serenaded everyone with an intimate and semi-acoustic version of “Pare Ko“. The best part of it all was when he gives the audience the chance to sing the notorious chorus that goes
“Di ba ‘tang ina, nagmukha akong tanga, pinaasa mo lang ako, lecheng pag-ibig to ohhh”.
It was then too late before I realized that I was howling like cow being castrated…twice. It was all in good spirit, though so I wasn’t complaining.
I then came to ponder on the magic behind Ely Buendia. Vocally, he is no Jed Madela and he isn’t the most good-looking guy there is. What makes him special is that he writes his own material and is truly an artist in every sense of the word (Unlike these days when the word artist is often confused with artista. Sam Milby, Jolina Magdangal, Willie Revillame, anyone?) The magic is in his ability to write a story we can all relate to and disguise it in a song. Their songs are often a collective account of things that happen to normal people like us. From the painful experience of being “basted” and being falsely let on by someone (Pare Ko) to the trivial narrative on one’s insatiable thirst to Drive (Overdrive), Ely has inked them down. No cliches, just pure unadulterated truth.
He then sings Magasin, the amusing story of a guy finding his once not-so-pretty ex-gf in the cover of a magazine. Only to find out later that the magazine was of the not-so-modest kind. Then it dawned on me. It has almost been two hours and still no El Bimbo for me. Then just like in every horror movie, it happened. Dread became a reality. After singing, Ely took a bow and left the stage. Just like that. With the same intensity of seeing Ned Stark being beheaded in front of the Sept of Baelor, I was almost certain I was going to have epileptic seizures. Well, that might be too much but I’m sure you get the drift. The show was truly over. Ely was gone and so were my hopes of seeing El Bimbo sung live.
I was too busy spewing out every profanity in the book that I was unaware of what was happening around me. The crowd was in unison bellowing one word. ELY! It wasn’t long enough before me and my friends joined in the scream fest. And just like Lazarus was commanded to rise from the grave, Ely came back to the stage in all his rockstar glory, which brings us to the last set.
SET 3: THE ENCORE
That friggin bastard! HAHA. I should have known better.
The band played a couple more songs before the crowd was at it again. This time, the audience was going for the kill! there was no way we were allowing Ely to leave that stage without singing “Ang Huling El Bimbo“. I don’t think I’ll survive going through it twice. This time I might just get a stroke. I swear I was going to jump off the balcony if that’s what it takes.
And before we knew it, the band plays that unmistakable intro. We surrender to the music and wave our arms in the air. Suddenly we were thrown back into the time of VHS’s, cassette tapes and tamagochis. The surge of nostalgia was overwhelming. Remember the castrated cow earlier? Now, it’s being bludgeoned to death.
Moments later and the grand ballroom explodes into the chorus and at once I knew I was in Eraserheads Heaven. The song tells us the painful story of losing the love of your life. We have all been there. We have all lost someone or something in some shape or form. And that is why the songs hits us in the heart every single time.
It was truly an epic experience. After missing BoyzIIMen and James Morrison, I was glad I did not let this one go. However, in every concert the curtain must go down. But good music will always be good music and songs like these will always be remembered. And we know that in every adversity we face, we can all turn into an Eraserheads song or two. And we know we will be singing it With A Smile.