By Wayne Harada
Martin Nievera’s Thursday night (Oct. 18) concert appearance at the Magic of Polynesia Showroom at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort felt like a flashmob gathering.
The event, a fundraiser for typhoon/flood victims in the Philippines, was belatedly organized within a week, yet it drew a throng of mostly Filipino fans, who came from Waipahu, Ewa Beach and Kalihi to support the former local boy whose fame in the Philippines made him to reside there, and frequently, in Las Vegas, where he has regularly performed.
It's like, these folks got the memo and created the buzz.
The high octane energy on stage, with Nievera sharing the spotlight and mike with Filipina fave Ai Ai de las Alas, was initially bewildering. An unlikely match-up? Curious at best? He is a groomed balladeer; she is known in the Philippines principally for her comedy. But she sings, too; she is refreshingly ga-ga, like Lady, minus all that headgear and bizarre wardrobe.
And: Conventional wisdom says locals don’t like venturing to Waikiki – you know, traffic, jammed sidewalks, parking issues. Yet, on a week night in a large room with a late-ish curtain time (8:30 p.m.) that singer Lani Misalucha wrestled with for eight months, before calling it quits because of dwindling crowds.
This one-nighter had the electric charge of another era of anxious anticipation of applauding a superstar. Like, we all were waiting for that aha moment.
In the Philippines, Nievera has been a marquee mainstay for more than three decades. While others have come and gone over time, Nievera still is pumping out the megaballads, in Filipino and in English, playing to his dual fanship. The core diehard Filipinos, plus the perhaps shrinking but still dutiful locals who remember his younger years while updating his legacy.
Geared to the ethnic Filipino crowd, perhaps 60 to 70 per cent of the chatter and the music was in Filipino.
No matter; his energy and his style still conquor his listenership. Thus, a medley of TV/film themes, all relating to the homeland audience, generated rapt attention and occasional squeals, even with the language barrier.
Ai Ai, whose antics are funny and outrageous — and yes, even her stage costumes —
also did bits in Filipino and in English. She called up two women and two men for a gallop to “Gangnam Style,” proving the power of video has no global fences; her vocal duets with Nievera were loud, lavish but loving. They are not the pair to share romantic lyrics or emotions; but for rock and sock, they pack that punch. Consider “Time of Your Life” and “Moves Like Jagger” — perfect examples of their kinetic chemistry.
His garb was a basic pair of trousers, coupled with alternating jackets of different hues; hers ranged from a black coverup that revealed a glittery show costume (short shorts) showing her legs; plus a jacketed pantsuit number capped with more glitter and blitz — sparking silver platform heels.
Nievera, ever so loyal to his local stock and pals, named names in his usual style. Rocky Brown. Jonathan Kaina. Danny Kaleikini. Peers from an earlier era, all in attendance. A genial host and a gentleman, Nievera delivered a couple of homers that spoke to both fan bases: “Be My Lady,” one of his pop charts here and there; and, in a quiet moment with mounting demonstration of his showman’s savvy and his trademark intimacy — the evening’s take-home "This Is the Moment."
He wisely this iconic songs from the Broadway musical, “Jekyll and Hyde,” without music. An a cappella powerhouse. Just the voice and mood lighting. Magical.
A show biz lament that without doubt encapsuled his soul and his style.
The lyrics were particularly spot-on:
“This is the moment!
“Damn all the odds!
“This day, or never,
“I'll sit forever
“With the gods!
“When I look back,
“I will always recall,
“Moment for moment,
“This was the moment,
“The greatest moment
“Of them all!”
In flashback, everything else became secondary. “This Is the Moment” alone defined the man and his music.
Nievera and Ai Ai left Hawaii early the next morning, for a similar fundraiser in Los Angeles. Indeed, life is a series of "moments."