No strangers to the stage, the boys of SB19 make a big swing in terms of scope and sentiment, conquering the Big Dome in the half virtual, half physical hybrid that was Our Zone.
Unlike the typical rush one would feel when racing towards a concert, this was more of an out-of-body experience. After all, in nearly two years, we had to content ourselves with scaled down and virtual versions of the euphoric coming together of music and community, which has since shifted the way we consume entertainment.
Everything felt surreal: walking along the curved halls of the Smart Araneta Coliseum with the cold draft whooshing, sitting under the distinct dome, and seeing the lights dance in high anticipation of what was to come. The energy was electric even if by the standards and capacity of the Big Dome, the limited people in attendance was sparse, separated and safely distanced on the floor and in the rafters, of course. For most, if not all, this was a slow but significant point of reacquainting with the ways of an old world, but for SB19, this was their chance to prove that not only are they worthy of headlining a space of epic proportion, but most importantly, they can command it from start to finish, encore included.
And command the boys of SB19 did in their third anniversary concert, Our Zone.
This Is Their Zone
While Pablo, Josh, Stell, Ken, and Justin have been hustling hard amid the pandemic, what with the release of their album, Pagsibol, as well as of their digital concerts Back In The Zone and Forte, this would mark multiple milestones for the Filipino boy group. Apart from it being the culmination of the month-long third anniversary efforts of SB19, Our Zone would also count as the first live concert held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum since mobility was regulated and productions were canceled since the first quarter of 2020. The boys were no exception because they were actually in the middle of a tour, which they prematurely bowed out to. Now, just in time for their celebration of a mighty three years, they were all finally able to say, “What’s up Araneta!”
Spread out in two days, SB19’s Our Zone was presented as a hybrid: one part live, but limited, and the other, the standard live stream we have all come to be so closely acquainted with. In fact, as this is the first assimilation of this context in a long while, it proved to be a challenge attention-wise, at least for this writer, because for a while, it seemed all too good to be true.
Built in the middle of the coliseum was the massive geometric structure, which saw elements of their logo on the stage outlined in neon blue, as well as of a galaxy splashed in the background, perhaps to parallel their taking to greater heights from here on out. An LED screen was also set up to simulate more of the audience, even if they were in the comforts of their homes all over the world.
If circumstances were more forgiving, there would be no doubt that the live concert would be packed to brim. But even with the minimal audience in actual attendance, the Big Dome didn’t feel empty, as it appeared to be, because as if it was playing to full capacity, there was an overflowing of chants, cheers, and most importantly, emotions from the A’TINs bookending the space from opposite ends, light sticks and all. Speaking of, as this was a unique coming together in the concert sense, it was a treat to see the barebones of the show from an onlookers perspective, which included, among other things, Pablo jamming out to the front act performance of his brother, Josue.
“Iba pa rin talaga ‘pag may naririnig na sumisigaw,” quipped Stell onstage, after they quite literally tore through the stage with the hypnotic and haunting track, Mana, which was followed by the tender telling of Tilaluha. Atypical of concerts that would wrap up its first set with a swell of high energy and waterfalls of sweat, Our Zone and SB19 shifted gears with Go Up, which was orchestrated opposite of original form, this time as a booming ballad that made it more aching but ultimately hopeful, which essentially encompasses the journey of the boys. Just as the stripped down version was starting to settle, they picked up speed and ended strong. Talk about giving their all, and this was just the opening act.
It was clear that even if this was already the second day of Our Zone, SB19 was well, in the zone. Everything worked from the get-go—the vocals on point, the choreography crisp and precise, and the charm, compelling even from far away. But what really became apparent in spades was the overflowing of gratitude they have for their family and fans. “Para sa inyo ‘to,” they said.
Give It All
Pablo, Josh, Stell, Ken, and Justin are no strangers to the stage, but with Our Zone, the rise of SB19 as the royalty of P-pop was not only anointed, but solidified with their confident showing from start to finish. True kings, indeed.
Even as they interacted with the crowd on site and online, as well as with their special guests for the night of day two, The Juans (Hatid, Hindi Tayo Pwede, and Dulo), it couldn’t be said enough: this is where they are meant to be. After they joined their brothers as a “Mahalampu” for their collaborative take on Atin Ang Mundo and a game of Hayop Sa Tunog, SB19 gave in to the long-time request of the fans, a medley of 90s hits by NSync (It’s Gonna Be Me, Bye Bye Bye). Now, for anyone who has attempted to sing and dance to this would attest, it is not the easiest, but judging by how much fun they were having onstage, no challenge is too great for SB19.
At this point, the energy was at fever pitch at the Smart Araneta Coliseum because the boys were smashing it from song to song. With no space to slump or barely catch their breaths, they continued the trip down memory lane, striking letterman jackets and all, with their take on nostalgia, Where You At, a bouncy, dance floor-ready disco ditty that has the structure and soul of Michael Jackson’s early hits.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Breaking their own tradition, they followed up with What, which introduced a new dance break. Where the iterations we’ve seen in the past eight months since its release has been more So You Think You Can Dance, the update seen was more Stomp The Yard (or Bootmen) with its military-like precision of stomp steps and combat chants. Obviously riding on a trajectory of conviction of the entirety of Our Zone, SB19 swung even harder with its clap back track, the empowering Bazinga, which was contrasted by the sheer joy of SLMT.
Where day one of Our Zone saw the performance of a yet-to-be released track, Nyebe, the succeeding second featured two new songs: the previously mentioned Where You At and the Christmas-inspired song, Ligaya, proving that yes, SB19 is the gift that keeps on giving.
For everything they give to their audience, the boys need to take in something as well, so as to fill their cups of purpose and passion. Suited up in sky blue pastels, they wore their hearts on their paneled sleeves, as usual, with their gutting rendition of MAPA, a soaring symphony of appreciation and affection for whoever falls within the scope of our definition of family. Backed by a stirring score, their voices filled the entire coliseum as if they were playing to a stadium or sprawling festival grounds. Later, their families join them in chorus, which is already worth a welling of tears for anyone with a beating heart.
Up, Up, Look At ‘Em Go
This performance would prove to be even more special as for the first time, Ken, who usually just sits at one end as Pablo, Josh, Stell, and Justin have a moment with their kin, was reunited with his sister and uncle. (For the fans, it is no secret that Ken grew up with his grandmother as his parents working overseas.) Overcome with emotions, the usually tight-lipped member of the Filipino quintet visibly broke down, dropping to his knees. Needless to say, there was no dry eye in the house, and presumably online as well, because from our peripheries, we could see the virtual audience wiping their own tears as well.
As overwhelming as this was, and with the whole live concert experience, this shows much the music of SB19 is evocative as it is endearing. Truly, they are the moment. Their ability to not only effectively soundtrack, but affect the lives of their audience both online and in real life, prove that while it may have been a long time coming, this is where they deserve to be. If there were any shreds of doubt that SB19 can headline and command a live concert of this scale, let Our Zone be searing proof that Pablo, Josh, Stell, Ken, and Justin of SB19 can do this and so much more.
Barely scratching the surface of their full potential, this is but the beginning of even greater things to come for them. Enjoy the encore, boys, and take a bow, because what else is there to do after this? Why, go up, of course.