They say that the third time’s a charm, however with this concert event, one could argue that the second time around may be in the running for such a label.

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

Charming, heavenly, understated, exuberant, dreamy or emotional, all choice words to describe the night. A significant number of faithful fans headed out during a weekday, which did leave some breathing room at the carnivorous interior of the World Trade Center in Manila. As the crowd anxiously awaited, what stood out initially for me was the palpable vibe of anticipation. And not only from the audience, you could also feel it wafting across the shadowy environment as Romy Madley Croft on guitar and vocals, Oliver Sim on bass guitar and vocals with Jamie “Jamie xx” Smith on synths, drums and keys; took their places on stage.

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

“Last time we were here, we had the craziest shows we ever had, so we had come here with very high expectations. But I can tell already that this will be a very good one,” said Oliver Sim.

I was fortunate enough to cover that highly-talked about event five years ago at the NBC Tent in Makati, lots of buzz after that one. So perhaps a challenge to follow up with another success, even for a group of consummate professionals. Fortunately, for all in attendance they did not disappoint, arguably improving a scale point or two from a half-decade ago.

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

Today the band’s sound has matured with their energy and mannerisms on stage being similar yet more defined. They didn’t miss a beat. I was pleasantly surprised that this time around the stage lighting had improved by leaps and bounds. The lights were well balanced and matched the melodic mesmerizing style of the group itself.

At times, simply backlighting the performers with vignettes casting shadows on the sidewalls then moments later flooding the venue with considerable rows of well-placed rays. Importantly, it didn’t distract from the music, quite the opposite, adding a no-frills theatrics to highlight the coy yet, precise instrumentation of the skilled musicians. 

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

There’s not really a lead vocalist in this band so Oliver and Romy share equal duties, you’d be hard-pressed to declare one them as the lead. The vocal performance of the co-lead singers is something to behold, not an easy task to pull off and this one is a harmony made in heaven.

A perfect balance, so much so, you could say that their voices essentially act as one. Along with Jamie xx skillfully performing on synth and percussion, it creates a live ambiance that you do not experience often. These three are longtime friends and it shows on stage as they appear to effortlessly function, creating a relatively simple sound that’s intoxicating.

The crowd swayed in a hypnotic fashion, moving as one happy mass for much of the evening. A metaphysical concept in action, people connected to the music on an unseen level. 

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

Oliver’s animated style on bass is entertaining and fun to watch, especially when he is off mic. Moving rhythmically and gyrating the lengthy neck of the bass guitar as he unconventionally danced about the stage, generally not typical of a bass player. They usually don’t move around too much, simply staying relatively still in one place, focused on keeping the beat. The setlist had an easy flow to it, although maybe a tad on the short side.

Yes, 17 songs for about an hour or so, however closer to 90 minutes or thereabouts would have been ideal. It didn’t matter much, in the long run, everyone walked away pleased as punch. There were a few moments during the night when Romy and Oliver would look at each other in almost disbelief on how precisely the crowd sang together or in a responsive fashion, almost taking on the role of another vocalist.

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

At one point in-between songs, Romy approached the mic to address the crowd and the place erupted in applause before she could even speak. As the applause subsided she went to speak again and again the crowd erupted in applause just as strong as the first time. At that point, it was obvious to anyone paying attention she was genuinely touched.

She took a moment and when the audience finally let her talk, she said “We had a really really good time with you tonight. And we are very far away from home but you have made us feel so welcome.” She continued, “We appreciate each and every one of you for being here.”

liver addressed the fans saying “Manila, you’re my favorite! Yes, I know singers will often announce such a ubiquitous statement, for whatever city they happen to be playing in at the time but here it was different. You could tell he meant it as he humbled spoke, “Can you keep a secret, Manila?” he continued, “You’ve been my favorite audience this tour!” and the crowd lit up with an eruptive response. 

Regardless of what adjective you would utilize to describe this concert, it’s certainly an act worth catching. The night had a dreamy feel to it with the bands signature melodic indie pop sound which drew in the crowd, as a moth to a flame. Now hopefully it doesn’t take them five years to come back again. 

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