Kitchie Nadal Live in Toronto !

August 6, 2005
The Opera House
Toronto, Canada

Set List:

  1. Breath
  2. Deliverance
  3. Same Ground
  4. Tom’s Diner (cover: suzanne vega)
  5. You’re Worthy
  6. Run
  7. Fire
  8. Wag Na Wag Mong Sasabihin
  9. Pagsubok (cover: orient pearl)
  10. Bulong (Thank yous to sponsors, introduction of members, Jeff, Jack, Aaron, Marco)
  11. Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka (Encore performance — cover: Ryan Cayabyab)

The most poignant memory I have of the ‘Kitchie Nadal Live in Toronto’ event, aside from Kitchie’s performance, was the image of fans lining up the entrance of The Opera House (TOH) to get a good place to seat or perhaps stake some prime real estate in front of the stage. The line-up ran across the frontage of TOH and progressed through the apex of their corner sidewalk where it turns and meets the side-street. The line-up bended and continued through the side-street as if it were a ribbon made to wrap around TOH as a gift to Kitchie and its producers Radio Insect Records (RiR) and Minerva Records (MR). For an event producer/promoter it was the sight of success. Supply finally meets its demand, and then some.

The night started with performances from ‘Out of Luck’,’Noizy Toyz’,’Vultocazhe’,’Skyla’, and the debut appearance of RiR and MR’s all-girl band project ‘Where’s Jessie’. Performances from the five groups were done without a hitch except for a sequence change mishap and the ‘drowning vocal’ syndrome which was more a factor of the Front-of-House (FOH) sound mixer than the artists themselves. Please refer to my other writeup, to follow, describing the performances of our local bands. After ‘Where’s Jessie’s’ energetic performance and a very well-received conclusion comes the feature event of the night ‘Kitchie Nadal’.

Upon introducing Kitchie’s band courtesy of the unflappable emcee Mr. Rob DelaCruz the crowd’s cheer punctuated what would eventually be indicative of that evening’s musical performance, explosive !. Kitchie’s band members assumed their respective places and played this wonderful musical ambience of ‘reverberated plucked guitars and bass’ in the background, to the chords of ‘Breathe’. This paved way to Kitchie’s first stage appearance that evening. The ambient soundscape brought about a wonderful sensation and goosebump-factor like something you would feel from the introduction of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. Ms. Roca Cruz readied herself in handing Kitchie her now synonymous black ‘Parker Fly’ guitar, which she got as gift from colleague ‘Barbie Almalbis’, and helped strap it into her slender physique.

This impressed me as not only does Ms. Cruz act as Kitchie’s manager but, when the need arises, could act as her stage tech or whatever else is in need at the time. A ‘management chameleon’ who exemplifies the meaning of ‘team work’. It was also the very first time I’ve seen Kitchie, from browsing through the lot of her online gig pictures from, that she wore a white one-piece sleeve-less dress over blue jeans. It enhanced her female rock star image even more. There was also an added sensual effect virtue of what looked like a loose bra-strap dangling over her left shoulder. I’m sure there were a lot of gents that night who was consumed by the visual impact of Kitchie Nadal. Her ‘au naturel’ appeal on stage and in-person was simply captivating. Hearts were stolen.

As Kitchie joined the band and started singing the first words of ‘Breathe’ there was an immediate feeling of gratification followed by an overwhelming applause from the various fans. A feeling that made the folicles at the back of your neck tense-up gradually. Kitchie also gave the audience an incentive to focus-in on her. As she’s singing there’s an immediate sense that through her facial poseurs, however slight, a story is being told. Her subtle facial gestures seem to communicate the song’s story visually and somehow be able to translate the lyrics with just a twist of her brow or a crimp in her forehead. Kitchie was able to communicate through those subtle expressions. It was an added dimension to her performance for those who were receptive to it.

As I was listening to her angelic voice it dawned on me that they sounded exactly like as if I were listening to their cd. This I thought was a feat that few musicians can muster. There are those who sound great on cd (studio) but somehow lack the talent on stage. More or less a side-effect of over-production. Kitchie and her band, on the other hand, sounded excellent regardless whether they were in a studio (cd) or live. A rare gem indeed. In the middle of performing her first song Kitchie voluntarily reached to shake the hand of an ecstatic fan in the audience, showing a sign of unselfishness. It’s important to acknowledge appreciation in front those who admire you in spite of all the risks. That sole gesture symbolized the notion that Kitchie was as well ‘one of them’. Such a noble way of showing affinity towards her fans.

Kitchie’s second song was ‘Deliverance’. She introduced this song as being the first song she created for her debut album. The performance started and ended with a distinct feeling that Kitchie was genuinely enjoying herself perform. She was more animated and appeared to be singing her songs with a newfound passion. Like she were singing them for the first time. As a musician like myself I knew the elation that came with such a satisfying performance. Shortly afterwards their third song was being played.

Kitchie did not sing this song immediately but gave somekind of history while the other members were providing a musical backdrop. Kitchie said that this song almost did not make it into the album .. ‘.. but then all of a sudden .. I just changed my mind ..’. Right after she sang the very first words of ‘Same Ground’ the whole place reacted in unison. Some people reacted by singing with Kitchie while the others simply jeered as if instinctively it was the only thing that they were able to do. Kitchie gave a big smile and gave the audience the chance to sing the first phrase uninteruppted. She then followed up with the second phrase and completed it until the second cycle of the song. At this time Kitchie pointed to the audience and asked ‘do you know this song ? … who wants to sing the chorus ?’. All of a sudden Kitchie managed to hone in on her selection and was told to come up the stage and join her. Driven by curiosity and through persistent research we found out that the lucky participant, a woman, came all the way from Montreal, Quebec. Montreal is approximately a 7 hour trip from Toronto if travelling by car at a constant speed of 100km/hr. Certainly a far drive no matter how you look at it. After seeing the particpant scale the height of the stage with ease she gave a wide smile to the audience and appeared starstruck at first. Kitchie pointed her to go to the microphone used by guitar wiz Jack Rufo. When it was time for the chorus Kitchie paused and made way for the participant to sing the chorus’ lyrics. I must say that the participant sang very well and surprisingly ‘in-tune’. More often than not a random pick from the audience wouldn’t render a quality particpant, this was an exemption. The audience cheered wildly when the participant started singing. She sang with closed eyes and showed passion in what she did. Kitchie thanked the particpant afterwards and gave her a one-arm hug before exiting down the stage. Kitchie finished her set to a now louder and much looser audience.

The fourth song turns out to be a cover song from Suzanne Vega called ‘Toms Diner’. Kitchie told the audience that the band is going to ‘jam a little …’. That was precisely what they did. There were segments in the song where members did impromptu solos and were just guided by ‘feeling’ aside from adhering to a common structure. After hearing their set for that song I’ve gained new respect to how Kitchie does her covers and to the guitar skills of Jack Rufo. The song gained a jazzy feel and a more syncopated head-boppin’ rhythm away from the monotonic dance groove it was in originally. The song was given a soul. Thanks to Kitchie. On the other hand, this song also gave way to Jack’s fantastic guitar solo midway through the song. Jack’s credentials as a producer is already well known in the Philippines (‘Producer of the Year’ — AWIT Awards). Most people forget though that Jack is first and foremost a guitar player and an avant-garde one at that. His guitar playing brought a Satriani-esque solo to this song. My jaws dropped. Impressive! is the least I could say.

Kitchie’s fifth song for that evening is her personal favorite, ‘You’re Worthy’. Her vocal performance here was incredible. There was a moment where it seemed that the FOH mixer knew exactly how to treat the vocals for this song. As for anyone who knows how this song progresses there’s a part when Kitchie does those high scale voicings near the end. The FOH mixer treated this with the right amount, or wetness, of reverb. The effect was almost like Kitchie’s voice drew further and further away but its presence and detail was preserved. A very ethereal experience. And for a song that’s meant to be ‘heavenly’ it’s certainly fitting. After the show, we’ve learnt that Ms. Cruz dictated to the FOH mixer on how to treat Kitchie’s vocals, and the band as a whole, for every song. Ms. Cruz gave the FOH mixer ‘scenarios’ (i.e. ‘like she’s singing inside a large cathedral’) to better explain what they want to achieve in terms of sound. Is there anything else that Ms. Cruz can’t do ?.

On the sixth set Ms. Cruz approached Kitchie to get her guitar as it looks like it will be primarily a vocal performance. The song started with Jeff doing a ‘jangly’ guitar riff while Marco did a faint rhythm accented by cymbal taps. Kitchie took the microphone out of its clip and proceeded to walk and bop to-and-fro across the stage to the rhythm provided by Jeff and Marco. Kitchie’s next song is ‘Run’. She sang to an almost acoustic-like feel initially before everyone joined in by the second verse. Kitchie was working the microphone in her most animated performance yet. It was also the first time I’ve seen a trickle of sweat come down the diva’s forehead. Although she was perspiring it was clear and evident that Kitchie was enjoying her performance as there were flashes of smiles, from Kitchie, given to her members and the audience. The set concluded with Marco continuing to provide a backdrop of continous cymbal splashes. It sounded like another song was going to be played as a sustained ‘feedback-like’ tone was emanating from Jack’s guitar. Their next song turns out to be ‘Fire’.

Kitchie was still guitar-free when singing ‘Fire’. It became clear why she wasn’t handling any guitar duties for this set. There’s a part in the song where Kitchie had to do a percussive beatbox-like sound using her voice. During the performance the sound was generated by rapidly exhaling and inhaling in close proximity to the microphone. The mere taught of it gives me a headache as it can suck the wind out of anyone. Kitchie did it effortlessly. She even gave out the odd smile while performing the strenous exercise. The sound was so unique and introduced an element of draw everytime she was doing it. I double-checked after the show if there was such a thing on the original, there was. It’s amazing what you miss hearing when, unknowingly, you’ve been selectively hearing only the main instruments that compose the song. It was all but faint in the original. Since I’ve discovered its existence, virtue of the show, the song gained a new charisma.

The next set will apparently be the most memorable one for me as it is the first song I’ve heard and fallen in love with upon my introduction to Ms. Nadal’s music. I’m sure most felt the same way. There was a self-imposed pause which allowed Kitchie to communicate to her members the plan for their next song. Ms. Cruz showed up once again to give back Kitchie her guitar. While Kitchie was talking to Marco you could hear Jack sketchily strumming a tune in the background. I thought that Jack was merely practicing for their next song until Kitchie uttered the words ‘Ibibigay ko ang lahat …’. Kitchie said these words three times, but everytime she said it it got progressively louder. She then shouted ‘Maskina para sa kalayaan mo … ‘!. The place went berzerk as they knew instantly what song it was. Those four well-known distorted-guitar chords were recognized immediately by the masses and applauded with reckless abandon. The next song was ‘Wag Na Wag Mong Sasabihin’. The introductory recital of the words to the chorus of this song made it even more dramatic than usual. There was an element of surprise which emphasized even more its goosebump-factor. I’d have to say that I truly enjoyed this set. I was completely focused at Kitchie and the band. It was like a moment where all emotions ran through me, all at the same time. It was an overwhelming experience. In performing, Kitchie manages, from time to time, to invoke some crowd participation by letting them sing to the song’s catchy refrain and chorus. Time went by fast for this song as, like anything you’re attentively focused in. In an instant, the band concluded their set and to which it ended in grandeur.

Cover songs are rare in a Kitchie concert yet somehow as much as three were performed that night. A welcome addition to any repertoire. The next song was the band’s second cover. The song was Orient Pearl’s ‘Pagsubok’. In a melancholic way Kitchie strummed and sang the intro in solo-mode. Partway through the first verse there was a distinct choral group gathering from the audience. It became substantially loud when the chorus hit and like a school teacher guiding her students Kitchie made way to the droves chanting the chorus. The whole venue was in a spell that moment. The walls echoed the crowd’s chant and for a sudden it seemed like the whole place was converted into a Franciscan monastery hosting its daily hymns. My question was NOT how many people knew the song and were singing with Kitchie ? BUT more How few of them weren’t ?. It was an audible experience similar to a million screaming fans at a soccer stadium singing their home-team’s rally chant. It was surreal. As the song came to an end Marco immediately played the drum intro to ‘Bulong’ where the others followed. The group continued to play the instrumental backdrop of the song while Ms. Cruz handed Kitchie a piece of paper. Kitchie then thanked the producers of the show (RiR and MR), its sponsors and the local bands. She then joined the group by singing the song. I liked the way they picked ‘Bulong’ as their final set as it is a song that’s rimming with energy. Towards the near end of the song Kitchie introduced her band members in order (Jeff, Jack, Aaron, Marco). They all did their respective solos after being introduced in sequence. Kitchie thanked the crowd at the end of the song and exited with Ms. Cruz.

Ask any experienced concert goer a concert is never without an encore performance. And from the droves of people, blaringly shouting her name, waiting for such an event to happen they were not dissapointed. Kitchie came back out and did a pose by cupping around her right ear using her right hand as if to say ‘I can’t hear you’. Kitchie’s encore performance was their last cover song performed and the last song of the show. The song is called “Tuwing umuulan at kapiling ka” composed by ‘Ryan Cayabyab’ and made famous by pinoy crooner ‘Basil Valdez’.

As it is with any great concerts I’ve had a priviledge to attend it always leaves me inspired. Inspired to make music. Inspired to music as a whole. Kitchie’s concert that night was inspirational. As a young musician she’s got a rare gift of crafting music with a sound that’s matured well beyond her years. Kitchie is by no means an accident nor is she a by-product of her amazing management body Be.Live and record label 12 Stone Records. Kitchie Nadal is for real. I’m glad to have been part of this production as well as playing host to the Kitchie Nadal experience. The concert left me with a lasting impression that dreams could be realised with the ‘right’ people at your side.

To all a good night,

Phil Mark