Saturday, September 22, 2007

Elliott Yamin Reciprocates

Trinoma Mall, Quezon City, Philippines, September 21, 2007.

The seats were already starting to fill out at the Trinoma Activity Center when my friend Kai and I got there. The usher directed us to a section to the right of the stage and I joked that we would have a fine view of the huge speakers. Seriously though, from our seats at the 3rd row, the microphone stood at 10 o’ clock thereabouts. Pwede na rin (trans. It will do. *a bit grudgingly*), with only Elliott and his keyboardist Joonie in view. We wouldn’t get to see Russell (sorry Russell fans) or Aaron. I didn’t even realize the video display on stage until I saw pics taken by the audience in the other sections.

Promptly at 7 o’ clock, the show was announced. (Woah, Trinoma followed American, not Philippine time, I’m impressed. I had hoped I would have a little time to look for my fellow Yaminoys but I only got to see a few while I was looking for familiar screen names-matched-with-faces to give out my extra stubs to. Which I didn’t, btw, and I ended up giving them to a woman who held a child beyond the gates.) The band members came out first and took their position. From where I fidgeted, camera in hand, I could partially see a white-shirted guy wearing a baseball cap. Darn speakers. (Note that my eyesight isn't what it used to be. *sniff*) Could it – nah, it couldn’t, could it? The crowd was getting crazy, but not THAT crazy yet, so perhaps it isn’t Elliott? I quickly looked to the right, to the curtained area where they had come from, and I didn’t know it at the time but Kai told me later that before the band came out, someone had been holding a camera to the audience from there, apparently getting some video. Any true blue Elliott fan worth her salt knows now where I’m taking this, don’t cha? No? *quip* The hand that held the camera now came out along with the rest of Elliott Yamin, recording artist, Season 5 American Idol finalist #3 (3 equals 1, haven't you heard?). Elliott was wearing a grey t-shirt (courtesy of Bench & Ben Chan, who he said had given them lots of clothes), jeans, sneakers, and the E accessories du jour: grey vest and fedora. He also held a blue hand towel (also by Bench, probably?) aside from the camera.

Now I’m hazy on the details so forgive me if I don’t get clinical here. I’ve always found myself in the experience-the-moment-versus- record-it-to-experience-it-later dilemma. Which is to say, when I record any event I’m excited about, I almost always end up with huh, fairly nice photos or videos but a little bit removed from the experience, to be perfectly honest about it. I do reach a balance at certain times, but the important ingredient is time. An hour doesn’t cut it. But let’s not get into that, I knew I had no choice but to record because I want to give back to all those who have shared their memories with us at the Y-Pod. As expected the audience erupted in excitement and screamed as Elliott stood on stage. Loose curls held in check by fedora, Elliott thanked us and exclaimed that this was his first time abroad. He sang Movin’ On to open the show. Movin’ On by the way, is being marketed by several radio stations here as Elliott’s 2nd single (I’m not aware if that has been sorted out yet, or if that is really what Elliott’s team intends). It was an energetic rendition, with Elliott changing up the song like he always does, molding the melody this way and that, finally ending up with something that isn’t exactly the same as any Movin’ On he’s done these past few months. The same goes for all songs he sang. Elliott’s an artist, don’t you know it. At one point between songs, he picked up his camera and took a video of the crowd before him. Elliott had fiddled with it a couple of seconds and chuckled. He said he had just gotten the thing and didn’t know how to operate it. What a sight it must have been, with the 400 filled seats in the Activity Center and the hundreds of people standing beyond the gates and on all floors of the mall. (Don’t quote me though, it could easily have been a thousand. Or thousands? I’m no good at estimating crowd size. But take my word for it, there were lots of people there.)

Elliott also sang Find A Way, One Word, Trainwreck, Free, and In Love with You Forever. I had gleefully been able to record 3 or 4 full songs when I saw the indicator in the camera screaming limited space. Gah, so there it was, I had to choose which songs to keep and which to delete. And what about pictures? Ack I gave myself a mental kick in the bum for not bringing my own camera (I had my brother’s camera with me because it took better video and had longer zoom), as it took me nearly the whole length of In Love with You Forever to figure out how to turn on the flash (you just manually turn up the hood, I found out a litle bit later *sheesh that was stressful*). In any case, I decided that there was one song I ABSOLUTELY would NOT delete, and that song is Trainwreck. (That's me you hear complaining at the start of the video hee, my arms were getting sore already.)

Now it may be your turn to kick me, but I didn’t record *switches to radio announcer voice* the hit single, Wait For You! (No kidding though, that single is going places - and I mean chart topping places - kudos to Elliott’s team on picking it even when Elliott himself didn’t immediately like it.) Fellow Royal Misfits know this, I don’t think heaven and earth of the song, and I even slightly resented the Timberlaking or Neyo-ification of Elliott in the early days of its release. Let’s just say that now I don’t hate it, and have even learned to like it somewhat, and I DO get excited when I hear the song being played on the radio in public places (which happens quite a bit now, here in Manila!). So I don’t have a video of that. Which (here comes your revenge, those who have been kicking me) I kinda regret now, because the crowd response was insane. People sang along and screamed. Silly of me, I’m getting misty now from the memory. Elliott must have been so touched.

Elliott was being accompanied only by Joonie on keyboard at that point when he sang Wait For You, Russell and Aaron having already gone backstage. His last song was A Song For You. I didn’t record this either, not because I didn't like it, but because I wanted to experience it. I’m not very good at describing music, so suffice it to say that it was poignantly beautiful. I knew my fellow Yaminoys, long-time fans since Elliott’s AI days, must have felt the same way I did. Who knew we would be listening to this live? We had been promoting Elliott our darnedest best even before Season 5 ended, campaigning for his Philippine tour. It was long shot then, and we only half believed it ourselves, as we weren’t even sure Elliott would go beyond Top 7, 6 or 5. He got to no. 3 and we cried when he got booted off, and still we only half believed Elliott would ever set foot on Philippine soil. So understand what it was to listen to him sing, “I’ve acted out my life in stages, with ten thousand people watching, and we’re alone now, and I’m singing this song for you...”.

Elliott then announced the end of the show, and people began to shout “More! More! More!”. He laughed, tickled, and said that he didn’t have anyone to play for him now. (Juny had gotten up and left the stage already.) I shouted “A capella! A capella!” (and half seriously too), and then I don’t know the hegg what came over us, Kai joined in and we chanted “A-ca-pel-la! A-ca-pel-la!” (sorry seatmates! I was possessed! I had barely said anything all throughout the show anyhow, as I didn’t want to ruin the audio of our videos. Suppressing the squee must have caused this sudden outburst. Again my apologies!). So I sat half-stunned when he said he would sing anyway, a capella. Hah! And he’d sing something from the show. Aaaaaah Moody’s Mood for Love egad, I knew I erased that other video a moment ago for a divine reason! Ye gods, my intuition rarely fails me! (Except when it told me to delete the vid of Elliott taking a vid of us. *kicks self again*)

Elliott started off in the wrong key on the first try, so he tried it again. His voice was a wee bit strained by this time. It was apparent in the other songs too, but not as obviously as at this point. Boy must have been tired already. I knew it, they should have let him rest especially after all that recycled air from the 12-hour (or is it 16, I forget) Los Angeles-Manila flight. And what with all the interviews he had to do that day! But still, the audience appreciated him for the genuine talent that he truly is. That earnest boy we saw on the show, who joyfully and so stunningly performed Moody’s Mood in his adorable sweater vest and bad haircut, he’s still there. Changed perhaps in many many ways, but essentially the same person, still the same Elliott we came to know and love. This magnificent talent who just a few songs back, had nervously told us: “Mahal ko kayo.” (trans. I love you all.)

Huge thanks to Ms. Charisse Santos of the Ayala-Trinoma for making sure I got seat stubs.

(Check out the rest of my videos here.)