‘Banig’ at the Clive Davis Theater at the Grammy Museum: ‘I’m back!’

Josephine Roberto: 'Singing directly into my fans' hearts.'

Josephine Roberto: ‘Singing directly into my fans’ hearts.’

By Dante D. Ochoa

Josephine Roberto, aka “Banig,” whose countless fans remember as the 11-year-old girl with the big voice that launched her onto the U.S. musical world in a big way during the ‘90s after winning Ed McMahon’s International Star Search junior vocalist title, has returned to live performance with a special concert at the Clive Davis Theater in downtown Los Angeles, Saturday night, July 19.

The wunderkind singing sensation, who has blossomed into a total performing artist admitted to feeling some pressure minutes before the night’s comeback concert.

“I’m so nervous, really nervous, because I don’t know how it’s gonna go since it’s been such a long time,” Banig confided to TheFilAmLA. Her last live concert performance was at the city of San Diego’s Spreckles Theater in 2003, some 14 years ago.

The show started with a mini-docu on a big screen unmistakably reminding the audience of the beginnings and trajectory of Banig’s journey to fame and arguably some fortune in spite of that elusive breakout into stardom even with her popularity and the wide acclaim of her outstanding talents in the mainstream media. But that’s another story and the night belonged only to Banig and her special audience at the sleek 200-seat Clive Davis Theater named after the living legend and musical producer/talent mentor to many megastars in the music business which included the late Whitney Houston who by the way, Josephine so idolizes openly to everyone.

The repertoire reflected her preference for pop and R&B genre mixed in with some country and the inevitable Filipino love songs given her declared stage credo to “entertain everyone”. The song selection range included Teddy Pendergrass (Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose), Pink (Try), Whitney Houston (Didn’t We Have It All), Marvin Gaye (Heard It Through the Grapevine), Kris Kristofferson (Help Me Make It Through the Night), Janis Joplin (Me and Bobby McGee) and pop songs like Hooked On You. Filipino songs “Di Na Natuto” and the sentimental self-composition “Bayan Ko” didn’t fail to draw that patriotic heart tug from among a sizeable Filipino American fan contingent in the theater audience.

“It was her choice to come back in a smaller, intimate setting rather than on a big stage like the Staples to showcase her singing ability,” her publicist Jerry Brown told TheFilamLA. Banig told us she wants to have that personal connection to each one in the theater. “I’ve been away for so long, this is my way of singing directly into my fans’ hearts.”

Banig bracketed her night’s performance, both opening and closing with her newest single “He Wants To Get It” actually released the same day as the “Unplugged Series” concert at the theater. This latest product of the sister act (with younger sibling Jhoanna “Jojo” Roberto, a rising songwriter-producer) collaboration that has also produced Silent Whispers album that included Boogie On the Dance Floor, an uptempo club anthem that charted in the U.S. radio and club scene. The new single is now available for downloading from BanigOnline.com and other sites. Banig appealed for fans to support the new song.

If the audience was expecting a classic Banig performance, they surely got it and more. The sheer energy of the gifted singer’s performance, her command of the stage and her repertoire, her staying power (she belted out 16 songs with barely a transition in between) is classic Banig, no doubt and her supercharged performance was rewarded by a loyal, adoring audience with thunderous applauses, easily some of the wildest cheering ever heard in the theater and standing ovation. Not bad for a performer in hiatus for the last 14 years.

“She’ll only get better in the course of her comeback,” said Layla C., a self-declared new fan who admitted she has never heard of Banig until a few days before the show, thanks to her friend who invited her to the special concert. The decision was unanimous, at least to those polled at the end of the show that it was a great show.

The concert turned out also to be sort of a reunion of loyal fans, former colleagues at the tour circuit and relatives and friends. Mar M. disclosed to TheFilAmLa that he was the musical director when Banig was touring the U.S. in the 1990’s. He recalled the Atlantic show where they had to perform an unscheduled second day performance to accommodate the thousands of fans who missed the first show. “It was wildly successful and we all had a good time touring, especially in Atlantic City with Mr. Donald Trump treating us to lobster dinners,” Mar said whose band, Digital Magic backed up Banig in all of her U.S. performances.

Another fan at the concert, Claudia C., still steadfastly holds on to her belief that Banig beat Cristina Aguilera at the McMahon competition in 1989, despite being told of the information to the contrary (Banig and her family had publicly set the record straight in the past to squelch the unfounded and unwelcome rumor). “Do you still believe that she beat Aguilera?” she’s asked. “Yes I do,” this die-hard fan insisted. And that was the end of the conversation.

Banig at the end of her performance thanked everyone as she shared with her fans her struggles in the music business and her renewed resolve to persevere and to continue to perform and work her way forward.

“I’m back,” she assured everyone in the audience. That could mean more concerts. That means I can see Claudia C. again in the future.

With Dante and Cecile Ochoa, publishers of TheFilAmLA

With Dante and Cecile Ochoa, publishers of TheFilAmLA

A supercharged performance

A supercharged performance

red line

red line

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