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The Eraserheads are still all about the music at 'Huling El Bimbo' reunion concert

An Eraserheads reunion concert after 2009 once felt impossible. And then it happened.

The legendary OPM band of Ely Buendia, Raimund Marasigan, Buddy Zabala, and Marcus Adoro took the stage at the SMDC Festival Grounds for a one-night-only show on Thursday.

Titled Huling El Bimbo after their hit song, the four-hour, three-part show was filled with nothing but singing our hearts out, jumping for joy, and all the while taking in the fact that yes—this is the Eraserheads, and we are ever so lucky to hear them live again.

The stage featured the band’s upside-down E and floor-to-ceiling screens complete with animations.

It's an awesome stage design, complete with multiple outfit changes, smoke machines, confetti, and fireworks. That's not mentioning incredible guests like Gary V., Elmo Magalona, Eon Buendia, the AMP orchestra, and of course the much-talked about Francis M.'s hologram. 

But all these sets and stunts? They really just show how far Ely, Raimund, Buddy, and Marcus have come — given that their one goal was to just play the AS Steps at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

At "Huling El Bimbo," the Eraserheads prove once again they're there for what matters most: the music.

The massive show drew in an estimated crowd of more than 60,000 fans and despite not knowing each other, these strangers in the crowd found a common understanding, love, and community in the Eraserheads and their songs.

The show opened with an introductory video and countdown showing old footage from Quezon City and UP, places the band has made their own.

The band played their top hits as well as underrated classics. They opened with “Superproxy,” and were joined onstage by Elmo and Arkin Magalona, Eon Buendia, and the highly anticipated hologram of the Master Rapper Francis M who performed his verse.

After the song, Ely said something along the lines of, “It's been a long time. We’ve seen different places, seen different faces but we're coming back to you.”

In an unexpected move, the band jumped into the rest of their album “Cutterpillow” — in order, mind — as they continuously switch up their guitars and cymbals.

After each song, an illustration would flash onscreen, hinting at the next one.

Raimund had a big smile all throughout as he energetically pounded the drums and sang his parts. The guys on the guitars were all so smooth. Everything sounded exactly like the studio versions too, but a million times better.

The Eheads know how to hype up a crowd, and at the same time, make the concert feel like an intimate jamming session with friends. Marcus would move up and down the stage, showcasing some intense guitar riffs. Ely would let the crowd sing even the longer verses.

“Cutterpillow” did not end with the original final song. Instead, Ely took off his leather jacket, threw it to a lucky fan, and then sang “Feel Her” solo on stage with his acoustic guitar. Once again, he let fans sing the whole of the second verse.

Then the band and their fans took a 30-minute intermission — but not all was not quiet.

Opening act and DJ duo The Diegos took the stage again, playing a mix of disco, hip-hop, rock, and every genre in between.

The UP Pep Squad made a surprise appearance, performing their signature stunts and dances. Everyone chanted the classic UP cheers, with every word memorized despite obviously being from different schools. A dance camera, focusing on fans showing off their moves, hyped people up even more. 

The “Circus” returned after 30 minutes, again starting off with throwback videos of the band, their concerts, and life behind the scenes.

“Did you guys like the first set? Intro pa lang yun,” Ely said.

In new outfits, the vocalist introduces their supporting band, Jazz Nicolas of Itchyworms, Mikey Amistoso of Ciudad, Audrey Dionisio of General Luna, and cast members of “Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical” on backing vocals.

The second set started with “Pop Machine” and “Sembreak,” and after playing “Sabado,” Ely joked it was their latest single. Buddy hopped in and told fans to call their favorite radio station to request it. It was nice to see them enjoying the concert, too.

And then they got serious. Buddy introduced frequent collaborator Mel Villena, the stage opened up to the 18-piece Asosasyon ng Musikang Pilipino or AMP Orchestra conducted by Maestro Mel, and they went on to play the much-awaited song for the night “Lightyears," which the Eheads, prior to the concert, revealed was their new favorite song.

Their new-found fondness for "Lightyears" was evident as they played it. Buddy even turned around to look at the orchestra and relished in the fact he was playing it with them.

After that, Marcus told us he’s got a joke or a punchline “after this song,” but then we never got to hear it.

Arkin and Eon joined the Eheads again in space-inspired outfits for “Saturn Return.”

Everyone got to dancing again—including the horns section—for “Maling Akala.” Marcus and Ely gave it their all in their solos.

When the orchestra left the stage, Buddy talked about how he wrote “Tama Ka” with his now-wife Earnest and revealed how it’s become a song he still enjoys.

Continuing the sentimental mood, Ely said, “You have all inspired us during the darkest times of the pandemic. And we’re very honored that this song was chosen as an inspiration for everyone.”

He added, “You have inspired us to come back. So this is for all of you guys. We love you.”

They then performed everyone’s comfort song “With a Smile,” with an extended outro and quickly flipped the mood with a raging “Insomnya.” 

The orchestra returned, with Maestro Mel playing a solo on his sax. The rest of the band started grooving and with a good reason: Gary V. joined the band onstage for the upbeat “Christmas Party.” Mr. Pure Energy even accompanied the band on tambourine and play a solo with his bongos.

When the orchestra and Sir Gary leave, the Eheads chill for a bit before diving right into “Spolarium.” With a setlist that alternates between relaxed and hype, it’s really something that only they can pull off.

For “Magasin,” the band allowed excited fans sing the first verse and the bridge before leaving the stage again.

It was Ely who first returned on stage for the third and final part of the show. He’s got his acoustic guitar once more, played some chords, and teased the crowd with the intro to “More than Words.”

He starts off “Pare Ko” before he is slowly joined by the other members, except for Raimund who was nowhere to be found. Jazz took his place on drums.

With the 60,000-strong crowd singing along to every word, the band would stop playing to let them loudly sing “tangina!” 

And then Raimund re-enters the stage with an action camera and a glass of wine. He dances around, almost like he’s a fan himself. And when the vocalist thrusts him onto the mic to let him sing a couple of lines — which Raimund gamely did — it was such a nice, tender bro-moment between the two.

“What an amazing journey this has been for us. It’s time to look at the future and honor the past,” Ely said. “Let’s look at our friends and say ‘we love you,’ ‘I love you,’” and that’s what everyone did.

When the band starts playing “Alapaap,” Ely does not sing. He lets the fans do it, he even cheered for us.

But apparently, it was a mistake. They weren’t supposed to play that song yet.

“This is so professional. My setlist says that song,” Raimund said and everyone laughed. “I quit.”

The drummer reintroduces the supporting band, and also introduces the Eraserheads.

Back to script, Mikey starts off “Minsan” before Ely. They are once again joined by the orchestra and Maestro Mel and somehow, the lyrics have a different ring to them.

When they finally play “Alapaap” at the right set time, they get the crowd screaming even before the first verse. The boys clearly still have it. 

And when the classic G-shaped chords of “Ang Huling El Bimbo” played, everyone screamed. It genuinely felt like a jamming session, with the Eraserheads once again proving their music transcends generations, genders, statuses, and every other category out there.

During the extro, the foursome jammed together in a circle. The song’s epic instrumental ending matched with fireworks overhead. It felt surreal.

Right after the song, the Eraserheads hugged each other and all the performers, and fans were showered with yellow confetti.

Then they held hands and took a bow.

But it’s not the final bow. It's not the Huling El Bimbo. The band’s world tour in 2023 was confirmed with graphics flashed onscreen before the show. And with a show like that, it’s got us wanting more. — LA, GMA Integrated News