From their solo performances to making a compelling case for their future as a phenomenal unit, SB19 proved that they can go even higher than expected in Back In The Zone.
At this point, it has been repeated so many times it treads the line of being another senseless buzzing, but it has to be reiterated for emphasis: Nothing will ever come close to the unequalled experience of a live performance. From the excitement so thick you can cut it mid-air with your bare hands, the cacophony that mysteriously becomes a chorus of harmony, and yes, the soaring euphoria ensconced with every progression of your favorite act, it is quite frankly, magical. (Heck, even as we inch towards a conscious and careful future, it has to be said that even the sweat-induced humidity of a packed space is part of the concert-going charm.) However, as time and circumstance still cannot allow a coming together in the scale of what once was, at least for now, creative compromises have been done to simulate the rush and reverie of a concert by way of the virtual space.
A common denominator for many artists and entertainers whose means of expression and connection have been stalled for close to two years, no one feels the aching void of a live performance than the boys of SB19. While their online concert, Back In The Zone, finally pushed through after so many understandable postponements, to record-breaking success no less, Josh, Justin, Ken, Pablo, and Stell all recognize that it isn’t the same. Make no mistake about it, this isn’t in any way to diminish the value of a digital concert, because mounting one is an entirely different discipline and effort in itself. What SB19 singles out as missing is the physical connection with their supports when they are on tour.
“It’s not about being back onstage, but being with everyone,” the boys of SB19 agree in between their sets in Back In The Zone. After smashing their opening segment with What?, Tilaluha, and Go Up, in what would into a retrospective, documentary, and concert hybrid, their biggest event yet unraveled to be what the boys promised: emotional, entertaining, and explosive.
Back In The Zone
For the longest time, it was as if a cloak of mystery was shrouding anything and everything that concerned the highly anticipated Back In The Zone concert of SB19. Apart from it being part and parcel of the anticipation building up to that spine-tingling countdown, this was a quality that is characteristic to the boys, preferring to keep things under wraps and work quietly on nothing but the best. “You will get to witness a lot of firsts in our Back In The Zone concert,” they said collectively during their NYLON Manila cover shoot, apparently already cluing us in on what was to come. “There will be lots of surprises in store for everyone, not just for A’TIN but to the casual viewers as well.”
After many sleepless and restless nights, having turned practices into their way of life, SB19 gave us a show and then some during the duration of Back In The Zone. From the fashion, visuals, creative direction (hello, Justin), banter, and performances, the online concert proved that while it may seem that the boys are at their peak, they are barely just scratching the surface of their full potential. From the effortless weaving of Get In The Zone and their recent release, Pagsibol, it was definitely a journey of a show and what a ride it was.
“Gusto namin na maramdaman ng manonood kung ano po ‘yung pinrepare namin, kasi siyempre ‘yung perspective po namin, parang alam na rin po naming kung pano kami manood ng concert. So, gusto namin na mas engrande ‘yung ipapakita namin na talagang galing sa puso at galing sa pinaghirapan namin,” detailed Josh in a press conference leading up to Back In The Zone. “Ito ‘yung level up na concert namin. Kasi mas napaghandaan namin in a way na may mga bago kaming songs ngayon…Mas fresh ‘yung feeling.”
A product of their incomparable hard work, the creative exploration that was Back In The Zone not only decidedly and definitively showcased who SB19 is, but it also showed that Josh, Justin, Ken, Pablo, and Stell are capable of so much more.
Strong On Their Own, Strongest Together
“Dito, talagang pinaghandaan namin, kasi kumbaga sa bawat kanta, para kang manonood ng movie in a way. Kasi ‘yung set up talagang angkop na angkop sa kanta,” shared Pablo. “Pinaghandaan namin, ‘di namin sinayang ‘yung bawat oras. Ginamit namin lahat ng resources namin, kasi nga, alam naming virtually sila manonood. It would be better if it were live, but we made sure na talagang maganda at masa-satisfy both visual and hearing senses nila.”
Whether it was the soul-stirring look back on where they came from Alab, Hanggang Sa Huli, and Love Goes, or their most aggressive and authentic showing in Mana (the Thriller reference wasn’t lost on us), Bazinga, MAPA, Ikako, and SLMT, SB19 was in prime fighting form in Back In The Zone. But as it is a bedrock of many formidable and flourishing bonds, their skill and success together is furthered by their individuality, which was illustrated in their individual performances.
“Sa amin sa Pagsibol and related sa song namin na What?, we want to show our individuality,” quipped Justin, adding that more than anything, it really was done to show something new and hero their own lives and their own journeys, which in itself has its fair share of ups, downs, and in-betweens. “Kung ano po ‘yung naramdaman namin dun, sinubukan naming i-incorporate sa lahat ng kanta namin,” shared Pablo. “Pag aggressive, that means we really want to say something, but meron din hopeful and sad and thankful sa lahat ng tumulong sa amin. Dun nabuo ‘yung buong journey ng SB19 sa Pagsibol.”
Following this trajectory mapped out by the release of their extended play, SB19 went to their extremes in Back In The Zone, leaving an indelible imprint of who they really are with their solo performances.
From Justin’s tender take on The Scientist, Stell’s impressive and show stopping version of the singing competition favorite, All By Myself, Pablo’s mind-blowing and heart-pounding poetry and performance with his brother, Ken’s saucy solo that highlighted the language of his home, and Josh’s take-no-prisoners iteration of Drag Me Down, it was as if the boys telling us, but wait, there’s more. Here, they teased the possibility of their futures as a band and as a person of their own volition.
Yeah, Always Going Up
“Siguro, masasabi namin, hindi naman ibang tao ang magdidikta ng buhay namin. Hayaan lang natin i-express ng ibang tao ‘yung gusto nila sa buhay nila. May standards tayo, pero hindi naman dapat pati ‘yung way ng music, fashion or whatever,” said Josh. “Naniniwala ako ang tao, iba’t-ibang strength, ‘wag natin i-down ‘yung ibang tao na feeling natin hindi sila magiging successful dahil may sarili kang standards. Maging open lang tayo sa bagay bagay.”
See, there was much more to the entire showcase of SB19 in Back In The Zone, one that expands into an all-too important conversation of change in whatever context it fits. “Innovation doesn’t happen without change. ‘Yung mga tao kasi, kung ano ‘yung mga nakasanayan, ‘yun lang ‘yung gusto nila,” continued Pablo. “Pag nakakita sila ng bago, shina-shutdown nila. Dapat hindi bina-box out or kinakahon ‘yung mga bagay bagay kasi walang innovation na mangyayari if hindi kami [mag step] out of the box.”
More than the harmonies, the assured declaration of their best and most authentic selves, SB19 hopes that with what they showed in Back In The Zone, the audience gets inspired to do more and be more than what is told or expected of them. “Maging creative ka, palawakin mo ‘yung utak mo, ‘yung imahinasyon mo, para sa ganon, makakabuo ka ng iba’t-ibang ideya na gagamitin or susundan pa ng ibang tao in the years to come,” expressed Pablo. Extending this train of thought, Josh added, “’Wag nating pigilan ang mga taong may pangarap ang may vision na maganda.”
“Every person has a purpose in life. Siguro ‘yun ‘yung purpose namin, to give hope and inspiration to other people,” continued Josh. “Once you’re doing something na meron kang nagagawa for other people, mas gaganahan ka na ipagpatuloy mo ‘yung passion and pangarap mo.”
Perhaps we should have taken heed when Stell warned, “when we say we prepared, we prepared talaga,” ahead of their concert. While were ready to be blown away with their signature explosive entertainment, it was the thoughtful threading of insights into their musical and visual storytelling that truly made it even more compelling than expected. With so much more ahead of SB19, Back In The Zone just made it clear that mahalima lang sakalam.