Sungha Jung in Manila!


Sungha Jung played his greatest hits and some popular tunes last night, and oh boy it was a glorious night of guitar music.

I was so excited when I found out months ago that Sungha Jung would be performing here in Manila. When the official dates were announced, I was even more excited. When the tickets became available I was disheartened when I logged on to Ticketworld only to find that the cheapest tickets were sold out. Good thing I checked back 3 weeks ago. When I saw that tickets were still available I immediately booked one. I will not miss it, definitely.

And so last night, I found myself at the lobby of the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, lining up to buy a CD. If you buy a CD you could line up to have it signed after the show, but I find the time to be a wee bit late, and as I live up north I might have problems going home. Besides, there were 300 CD buyers who’d line up. I consoled myself that at least I get to hear him perform live.

The doors opened at 7PM. After finally getting Paint It Acoustic, I went to the doors, had my bag checked (cameras were allowed to be brought in but not allowed to be used during the performance), and wondered at the place. It’s like a large cinema with carpeted floors and red upholstered stadium seats (lesson learned – don’t wear red when watching at Newport Theater – see image below). The stage is so wide you could probably put in an IMAX screen in there. (Look at the image above.)

I was actually afraid that not a lot would come and watch, but I was glad that only a few seats were empty by the time the opening act started. I was a bit amused and annoyed, though, that Filipino time reared its ugly head. Halfway through the first set, you could see people still streaming in.

As I have said, Sungha played some of his original pieces plus covers of popular songs, including songs by Bruno Mars and Maroon 5 and a KPop singer/group whose name I wasn’t able to understand (Sungha speaks English, but his pronunciation is heavily Korean accented). His ukulele rendition of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and music from Super Mario Brothers (see live performance video of the two here) got cheers from the audience (I admit I was looking forward to him playing the Super Mario music using ukulele, and I was quite happy when he did). He started the second set by playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D using an electric guitar.

The audience appreciated the technicality of finger style guitar playing by clapping on very technical parts of the music. As a non-player, I could see the difficulty in playing, but Sungha is a prodigy and played with ease.

Probably the highlight of the night was the last piece of the second set. In the middle of the “brief” intermission (the only slight I could cite for the night – really, how long is brief?), I thought maybe he should have planned on playing a Filipino song. When he announced that he was about to play The Eraserheads’ classic Ang Huling El Bimbo, the audience roared! (I am having goosebumps right now as I remember that part). Some of the audience sang while Sungha played. You could just appreciate that he took time to learn the piece, and I am sure the transcription alone took time. He did not play it perfectly, but for me it was a fitting climax to the set. UPDATE: Youtube video!!!!

He did two encore pieces together with opening act Alyza Barro, which I found to be anti-climactic after El Bimbo. The two pieces were technical in nature, and the audience knew those pieces were hard to play.

Two screens were set up at both ends of the stage. It was a good thing since I was seated the second to the last row and so I couldn’t see much. The stage was almost bare, with a chair over a carpet, plus guitar stands, amplifiers, and lights. I found the addition of the carpet to be tacky. The backdrop of star lights was glorious, though they must have forgotten they had it installed, since they only turned them on on several songs, then on throughout the last parts of the second set.

But then again, it’s all about the music, and Sungha Jung did not disappoint, most especially this fan. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and I know he’ll get better with his guitar playing. I look forward to see him play again here.

Sungha Jung!