Cover Story

Rivermaya’s Classic Lineup On Getting Back Together For A Reunion Concert: “Expect the unexpected.”

Live Nation Philippines brings Bamboo Mañalac, Rico Blanco, Mark Escueta, and Nathan Azarcon back together for a show on February 17, 2024.

Last November 6, Live Nation Philippines officially announced the reunion concert of the classic lineup of Rivermaya. On February 17, 2024, singer Bamboo Mañalac, guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Rico Blanco, drummer Mark Escueta, and bassist Nathan Azarcon will take the stage together for the first time since 1998, at the SMDC Festival Grounds in Pasay City.

With this highly anticipated show, Rivermaya also become the first Filipino act to be promoted by Live Nation, which has brought in international hitmakers like Bruno Mars, Billie Eilish, Blackpink, and most recently, Fall Out Boy for sold-out concerts in the country. And with many fans clamoring for both Blanco and Mañalac to reunite with incumbent members Escueta and Azarcon, this show promises to be an eventful and well-attended one.

According to Escueta, many enterprising promoters have approached them to do a reunion over the years. “Lagi kong sinasabi, ‘Wala kayong problema sa akin kasi nandito pa ako sa banda. So kausapin niyo lang lahat, tapos kung game sila, game ako.’ [I always tell them, ‘It’s not a problem with me because I’m still in the band. Talk to the others, and if they’re game, then I’m game.’] I think it would be something na mare-regret ko rin kung hindi mangyari, o hindi talaga nangyari [I would regret it if it won’t happen, or never happens at all].”


Rivermaya photographed by Paolo Pineda on December 2023 at the Billboard Philippines Studio in Pasig City, Philippines.

“Kung mangyayari sya, dapat mangyari na [If it ever happens, it has to happen now],” adds Azarcon. “Kasi nasa late 40s, early 50s na kami. Nandun na kami sa edad, eh. So ang fear ko lang is if mangyari ito, let’s say five years or ten years down the line, baka ‘di na mabigay ‘yung show na kailangan mong ibigay. Physically, ha — ‘yung tumatalon, sisndihan ‘yung isang member… (Laughs) ‘Di na namin kayang gawin ‘yon. But sa ngayon, perfect siya. At least healthy lahat. [Because we’re already in our late 40s, early 50s. My fear is that if this happens five or ten years down the line, we won’t be able to give the show that the fans want. I mean physically – like leaping on stage, or lighting a member on fire… We won’t be able to do that. But now is the perfect time. We’re all healthy, at least.]”

Blanco maintains that Live Nation Philippines’ involvement was a big factor in getting him to take part in the reunion. “Honestly for me it is one of the big reasons that I’m here. At tulad ng sinabi ni Mark, maraming mga nag-a-approach over the years, pero walang bagong nilagay sa table [And like Mark said, many have approached us over the years, but offered nothing new to the table]. We’re going to be the first Filipino artist [to be promoted by] Live Nation. That helped me decide.”

“It’s definitely a big deal,” agrees Escueta. “Hindi rin ako makapaniwala n’ung unang sinabi sa akin — ‘Ah, talaga?’ D’un pa lang I felt it had the most potential na matutuloy. Kasi alam ko if anyone has the capability to mount the show, sila ‘yon. ‘Tsaka kung paano rin kami kinausap, very… basta iba. (I couldn’t believe it when I was told Live Nation was doing it — ‘Oh, really?’ At that point there was real potential that the reunion would push through. Because if anyone had the capability to mount the show, it’s them. And the way they presented to us was very unique.) They want to create something new with a bunch of old guys.”


Rivermaya photographed by Paolo Pineda on December 2023 at the Billboard Philippines Studio in Pasig City, Philippines.

“I could tell from my initial talk to them that they’re very experienced working with artists,” Blanco continues. “I felt they had a sensitivity to what I would need to be comfortable doing this, and I suppose they did the same for the others. But I’ll be honest — until I saw these guys again, I was still [doubtful]. Until I saw these guys, I didn’t think it was happening for sure.”

When asked what songs they’ll be playing on February 17, the band remains tight-lipped; although as of the day of this interview, they’ve already rehearsed once, running through the songs to get a feel of playing them again. “Pumili muna kami ng songs; hindi pa kami nag-areglo (We chose the songs first; we haven’t arranged them yet),” says Blanco.

According to the band, playing the bigger hits — like “Awit ng Kabataan,” “214,” and “Elesi” — proved to be more challenging as Rivermaya, Rico Blanco, and Bamboo still perform them regularly, and each entity has their own live iteration of these songs. “Iba-iba na ‘yung mga version namin ng mga songs [We all have different live versions of these songs],” adds Azarcon.

Still, with more rehearsals and Live Nation’s production expertise, the four of them are confident that they’ll give the fans a show to remember. But for now, Escueta has this to say: “Expect the unexpected.”

A version of this story appeared on Billboard Philippines’ Rock Issue, dated December 15. E-magazines are available at PressReader, Magzter and Readly.