Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Darren's reminder

Tickets to Darren Espanto's One Music PH digital concert The Other Side of Darren were sold out in two hours. Wow!
Darren Espanto may not have won the first season of The Voice Kids, but in the years since his time on the show, he has proven himself to be a world-class performer. So when Darren announced that he would do a One Music PH digital concert titled The Other Side of Darren, I found myself counting down the days until October 30. I could hardly wait to see exactly what he had in store.

Darren kicked things off with covers of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake and “Sax” by British singer Fleur East, who came in second on The X Factor UK in 2014. Honestly, I enjoyed both performances—Darren put on a good show, as usual—but I have to admit I was taken aback when he started singing. His voice was much deeper than it was the last time I watched him live, which was at the launch of his second album Be With Me at Market! Market! several months ago.

Despite the fact that his voice has changed, he can still sing big songs like nobody’s business, which he proved by segueing into a cover of Adele’s “Hello.” He also sang some originals, like “Home,” a beautiful ballad he wrote himself, and the Jungee Marcelo composition “Alam,” which is Darren’s second single from Be With Me.

“Home” is a song about missing his loved ones in Canada, and every time Darren sings it he goes back to the same emotional place he was in when he wrote it. The Other Side of Darren saw him laying into “Home” with everything he had, emotionally and vocally. When he was finished, Darren took a moment to compose himself, after which he apologized for choking up. I kind of wish he didn’t, because his losing control made the performance so much better. I love when singers wear their hearts on their sleeves like he did in that moment.

One of the things I liked most about Darren’s digital concert was that it saw Darren interact with his fans in a more meaningful way than the usual autograph signing or meet-and-greet. Some of the Darrenatics are talented dancers and singers themselves, and that night, they got the chance to perform alongside their idol.

Darrenatic Kate Fernando sent in an audition video and ended up onstage with the Total Performer. I liked her voice!
A girl named Kate got to sing Darren’s hit single “Stuck” with him. I liked her voice—it was nice and throaty—but Darren couldn’t help but overpower her towards the end. I got goosebumps when they held their mics out to the audience, who sang the song back to them. When your fans do that, that’s when you know you have a hit. (BTW, I just want to point out that I told Darren’s record label MCA Music that “Stuck” had the makings of a hit long before it was released as a single. Hehe.)

Darren’s rendition of the Gary Valenciano original “Gaya ng Dati” was also a winner for me. I started crying in front of my laptop after Darren sang the first two lines because it made me think of my mother. She’s recovering from a hemorrhagic stroke so she didn’t get to watch The Other Side of Darren, but I’m sure she would’ve enjoyed “Gaya ng Dati” too. It was beautiful and nuanced.

His interaction with Star Music’s Next Big Diva Morissette—who duetted on “Makita Kang Muli” by Sugarfree and Meat Loaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” with Darren—was fun to watch, as was the finale, “Where is the Love” by the Black Eyed Peas.

Darren has always been a polished performer, but his dancing is even snappier now, and his vocals are more controlled. Case in point: his cover of Noel Cabangon’s “Kanlungan” was very tasteful. He did throw in a couple of runs towards the end, but he did it without detracting from the song’s sweet and simple message. That means he’s become quite an intelligent singer. Having said that, there were times it seemed like Darren struggled with certain songs, but I blame that on his voice changing. I think the challenge for him now is to maintain the quality of his voice as he gets older.

I also think he should have delved deeper into a different genre for this concert if he really wanted to show people another side of him as a performer. We all know by now how good he is with pop, but I was disappointed he didn’t sing more rock songs like he said he would at the blogcon for The Other Side of Darren. But I still enjoyed the show.

Overall, the show wasn’t so much an introduction to a new Darren as it was a reminder that he’s startlingly talented and in his hands, the future of OPM looks very bright indeed. I’m already looking forward to his next concert!

"I'm still young, but I want to explore new things," Darren told the enraptured audience during one of his spiels.
Set list:

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Justin Timberlake
“Sax” – Fleur East
“Hello” - Adele
“Stuck”
“Home”
“Alam”
“Gaya ng Dati” – Gary Valenciano
“Kanlungan” – Noel Cabangon
“Makita Kang Muli” – Sugarfree*
“Throwback” (Morissette solo)
“Chandelier” – Sia*
“I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” – Meat Loaf*
“Where is the Love” – Black Eyed Peas

* - with Morissette

All photos courtesy of One Music PH.
Special thanks to Sir Aaron Domingo and Rae Ducut of ABS-CBN Corporate Communications.

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