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        A real shindig
              if there was one

           July 07, 2000
           Philippine Daily Inquirer

                     By Leah Salterio Gatdula

Pops  Fernandez didn't have to prove anything Saturday night,  when she filled up the Ultra to the brim during her major concert,  "Shindig." She was not out to reinforce her title as the country's "Concert Queen." She mounted the Ultra stage simply to give   her fans a grand time with her songs, dances and larger than life  performance.

It was a rainy weekend, but the fans braved the rains and made a beeline  to the Ultra gates to witness Pops perform. It was a sold-out show. At the last minute, people were still scampering for tickets, but to no  avail.

The multi-media promo for the concert worked wonders - TV specials, parties, press conference, radio plugs, TV and print ads, even billboards -- so that "Shindig" turned  out to be a huge success.

"I'm not out to compete with  anyone," an overwhelmed Pops told her audience. "Maybe you  just see the rawness and sincerity every time I perform, that's
 why you all came here tonight."

You knew there was an entire troupe of Pops' loyalists when parking at the Ultra was an ordeal and it took nearly an hour to enter the special ringside gates. Those holding bleacher tickets probably took forever to get inside.

Every available seat in the venue was taken. Surprisingly, even  the aisles were filled with fans. It seemed that half of Pasig's population was able to sneak in past the Ultra guards and didn't mind squatting on the floor just to see Pops perform.

The show started fashionably late, but the fans didn't seem to mind. They were probably having a ball star-gazing. At half past 8, show biz stars were spotted in the audience, among them Albert and Liezl Martinez, Princess Punzalan, Rowell Santiago, Rustom Padilla, Rica Peralejo and Ai-Ai de las Alas. Pops' mom and concert producer, Dulce Lukban, also sat on the front row with noted  hairdresser Ricky Reyes and travel agency owner Cris Aquino.

Regine Velasquez, who is being pitted against Pops by some  nasty writers for the "Concert Queen" tag, was also in the  audience.

Veejays Belinda Panelo and KC Montero documented the event for their program on MTV Asia.

                         Not for nothing

Pops is no concert queen for nothing. It took her two years to  return to a major concert venue but her popularity has not waned. "Shindig" was apparently much-awaited by her hordes of fans and Pops  showed it was no impossible feat to fill up a huge venue again.

Thank God, this was one concert which didn't have a front act.  From the first minute, it was Pops who wowed the crowd with  her adrenalin-pumping epertoire of dance ditties and upbeat  tunes.

For her opening salvo, Pops launched to a Britney Spears   number, "Oops I Did it Again," with a bevy of dancers clad in  yellow-gold outfits. She sang and danced with much energy as if she was a tyro trying to prove herself. But Pops was simply all  too eager to please her audience that night.

After the number, she made her exit in a motorcycle driven by a man in an all-black outfit and helmet, who was later introduced to be Diether Ocampo, much to the delight of the crowd.

Without changing outfits, Pops was back, this time in the elevated portion of the stage inspired by Urban Decay. She did a dance medley with more dancers trying to fit in the stage, cramped by session musicians and their instruments, plus other props for visual effects.

A cocooned Pops emerged from an electric-pleated gold wrap for her Madonna medley of "Frozen," "Nothing Really Matters" and "Ray of Light." She had choreographed numbers and one wonders how she managed to remember all those steps for each song. But Pops never missed a beat.

At one point in the show, somebody from the audience hollered,  "Pops, nanonood si Martin," referring to her estranged hubby, Martin Nievera.

Pops pretended she didn't hear it and remarked, "If it's nice, say it again, if it's not, don't." The audience roared.

                       Sentimental numbers

There were also sentimental numbers in the lineup, like Pops' a capella version of the Ogie Alcasid original, "Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang," with Three of a Kind, the trio of Edward Granadosin, Annie Francisco and Gelo Francisco. We heard her render this ballad during her Captain's Bar concert last year, but sang it as a   beautiful duet with Ariel Rivera.

The audience screamed when Pops carried out a heartfelt rendition of Martin Nievera's songs - "No Way to Treat a Heart" and "You Threw It All Away."

With guest Franco Laurel, she did a medley of pop hits "Everyday I Love You" by Boyzone and "I Knew I Love You Before I Met You" by Savage Garden.

Franco later did his own number and danced to the instrumental  strains of "Black Cat."

Pops also did her version of the Cindy Lauper original, "True Colors," carried out with maximum costume effect only fitting for a real concert diva.

A touching moment during the concert was when Pops sang the  acoustic version of Ronan Keating's "When You Say Nothing At All," with her eldest son, Robin, on the guitar.

Her other son, Ram, meanwhile, joined her onstage for a dance revolution and regaled the crowd with his very Martin-like antics.

In keeping up with the concert title, Pops gave the audience a slew of dance numbers like "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" (recently revived by Britney Spears), "I Will Survive," "Strong Enough," "Do You Believe in Love" and "It's Alright, It's Okay."

In an effort to sing more songs, she had mostly disco medleys like "Heaven Knows," "Last Dance" and "Could It Be Magic."

She blended vocals with young rapper Carlos Agassi, who oozed with tons of sex appeal in a stretched red vinyl outfit,  which emphasized his well-toned body, and black leatherette pants.

With Keempee de Leon, Pops did a medley of the latest dance hits by Jennifer Lopez ("Feelin so Good"), Christina Aguilera  ("What A Girl Wants") and Coco Lee ("Do You Want My Love").


However, it was rather disappointing to hear Pops sing old  dance tunes like Janet Jackson's "Escapade" or the Gloria Estefan medley ("Conga," "Rhythm is Gonna Get You," "Keep on Dancing" and "Get on Your Feet").

At one point, my seatmate remarked, "Dapat ibinaon na 'yang  mga kantang 'yan."

For the finale of more disco hits, show biz stars who were in the  audience were pulled out to dance onstage with Pops.

Aside from being a musical showcase, "Shindig" was also a visual feast, what with Pops' numerous costume changes. She donned close to a dozen outfits, tailored by four designers.

Apparently, the show allotted a huge budget for Pops' clothes, which she herself conceptualized.

Everything was executed with sophistication as Pops changed from one outfit to another. Noticeably, the concert queen showed a lot of skin onstage with those figure-hugging and  eye-popping clothes. No wonder we heard frequent oohhs from the crowd every time she donned a different outfit.

Maxie Cinco was adventurous and creative enough to create  most of Pops' sexy two-piece outfits, which included midriffs, bustier, micro shorts, mini-skirts and tight-fitting pants. Most of Cinco's creations were clothes pieced together for quick costume changes.

Pops emerged onstage for the first time garbed in a matte-gold stretched lame jacket and pants, with faux animal fur on the collar and cuffs. She later topped the same pants with a spaghetti-strapped beaded corsette with tasseled fringes, created by Gabby Barredo for the Madonna medley. It was complemented by the electric pleated gold wrap by Steve de Leon.


For the Janet Jackson production number, Pops conceptualized  a stylized cowboy chaps attire a la Liza Minelli in "Cabaret." The  midriff fuschia top had a peak-a-boo vest with matching micro  shorts. The ensemble looked a little complicated with the pants  made of red, frosted organza, dotted with spangles bought from Hong Kong. This one, too, was by Cinco.

Steve de Leon fashioned a red Caribbean-inspired ensemble for Pops' Jennifer Lopez medley of "Baila" and "Let's Get Loud,"  which got the audience to its feet. Pops later removed the bell  skirt to reveal a glittering red pants.

Rajo Laurel did a fabulous black opera coat, made of paper and tafetta for the "True Colors" number. When Pops shed the coat, it revealed a rainbow-colored backless gown made of tulle and Murano glass beads, also by Laurel.

Cinco also tailored a jazzed-up denim of a multi-colored, sequined long-sleeves wrap blouse for Pops, as well as the black leatherette bustier with silver urban chains and stretch  pants accentuated by smoked and mirror glass - which Pops wore for her number with Agassi.

The snake-skin fuschia pink top worn over a burgundy velour brassiere was reportedly bought from Mango. It was matched with pink bootleg pants.

If not for the songs, one would think "Shindig" was actually a fashion showcase. But with a brilliant musical director at the helm (Homer Flores) and an artist who gave herself to her audience, the show was a real treat.

Pops promised to give the fans a shindig and a real shindig it was.