“You know, I’ve always been a rocker at heart”, says Regine Velasquez-Alcasid.

It’s a surprising statement to hear from one of the country’s most revered pop icons, but if you’ve been following her career quite intently over the years, she’s always hinted at her rockstar ways. Her most avid fans and fellow musicians would note how there have always been some semblances to rock music in her bodies of work –– whether it’s the pop-rock performance numbers from her older concerts and albums.

“I’d always make sure to have a little hint of rock somewhere because I used to think that [perhaps] in my past life, I used to be a rockstar”, she states.

Even with her illuminating pop career — one that has earned righteously earned her the title as Asia’s one and only ‘Songbird’, Velasquez-Alcasid has always loved rock. You could easily note just how familiar she is with the genre’s variety of sounds, as exemplified by her sprawling setlist for ‘Regine Rocks, which features tracks from international hall of famers such as Queen, Journey, Nirvana, Blondie, Alanis Morissette, and Paramore alongside songs from local legends like Eraserheads and Rivermaya. “I really, really love the sound [of rock] because may pagkaiba yung expressions mo kapag rock song eh, which is why I always thought that I should have done a rock show when I was younger.”

The initial idea to produce ‘Regine Rocks’ first came about as a way to commemorate her 50th birthday, with the original title of the show being “Regine Rocks at 50”. But because of the unexpected (and prolonged) nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, plans fell through and it eventually became an afterthought for Velasquez-Alcasid and her team. As the world began to ease into the new normal, the idea came back to her –– with the lingering desire to produce the show still there. She constantly wondered; “Are we still going to do it? Because I still really want to”, to which her sister and co-producer, Cacai Mitra, encouraged her to push through with the dream.

“We figured, let’s just call it ‘Regine Rocks’. I wanted [the title] to say something like, ‘Hey, I can still rock it even though I’m 50 years old!’ I just wanted to prove to myself that I’m still okay, that I could still do it after all these years. Not to anyone else, but just to myself”, she mentions.

“I’m still a rocking grandma – well, more like an auntie, but you get the idea”, she jokes.

Yet even if she committed herself fully to the idea, some doubts still persisted on her mind. “It was one of those decisions that you wouldn’t be sure how the people would react to it. Because whenever you do a concert or something as ambitious as this, there’s always a risk, you know? Whatever we decide to come out with, there’s always a risk that it will fail. But it’s part of the exciting part. It’s like, “Do you like this? Do you think the audience would like this?” It’s all part of the excitement, even if you’re like, shucks, maybe this won’t work.”

Ultimately, the risk was well worth the gamble. Velasquez-Alcasid mentions how she took the chance to embark on this journey since the rewards are “much greater than anyone would imagine it.” “Just like with this concert, we never thought – not in a million years – that it would actually work and pull through,” she says.

The process of conceptualizing and preparing for a show like ‘Regine Rocks’ was so different than anything she had ever done before –– which is why her consultations with director Paolo Valenciano brought forth an abundance of ideas that felt larger than life.

“He was saying, that if we are going to do a rock concert, it has to look like a rock concert.  So for me, in my head, it means that it has to be lavish. It has to be medyo may pagka-flamboyant. Yung medyo over the top. Kasi ganun yung mga rock concert eh. Tapos yung iba nga may pyrotechnics, di ba? Ganun talaga. So, yun yung pinag-usapan namin. Tapos yung isa kong director, si Cacai, she wanted to have like a light stick na feeling niya pwedeng ipa-involve yung audience.” [It has to be a little bit flamboyant. Just a little over the top. Because that’s how rock concerts are. Others even have pyrotechnics right? It’s really like that, and that’s what we talked about. And my other director, Cacai, she wanted to add a lightstick to get the audience even more involved.]

Regine Velasquez-Alcasid

Regine Velasquez-Alcasid photographed by Lester Villarama

With all those suggestions in mind, Velasquez-Alcasid and her team made sure to put their full efforts into executing the show to the best of their capabilities. “So while we were doing the show, we were all not sure if it was gonna work –– until the night that it actually happened. And then luckily for us, it did work”, she mentions. “It was so exciting and nakakatawa kasi, nakikita mo na tayong-tayong-tayo na yung mga tao.” [It was so exciting and amusing because, you got to see that people were really standing up during the show.]

She explained how it was such a change in pace from her usual shows; stating: “Normally kasi sa mga concert ko, I have to ask them to stand up. Kasi nga, I’m a pop singer, so I normally don’t have a lot of high-energy numbers. I have to ask them, ‘Come on, let’s party, come on!’ But this one, talagang, feeling ko yung umpisa pa lang sila, yung tayong-tayo na sila. Talagang parting party na sila, kaya narealize ko, ganun pala yung rock concert.” [But this one, I really felt that from the start, they were really standing up with all their energy. They were really in a party mood, and that’s what made me realize that rock concerts were meant to be like this.]

Velasquez-Alcasid continues, “I’m so glad I did this. It was an incredible experience for me because as a pop artist and a balladeer, nakatayo lang ako pag kumanta usually [I usually just stand when I sing], so I don’t perform like that. But then from what happened, ang likot-likot ko daw [I kept moving around]. Kung ano, ano daw ‘yong ginawa ko, naglalampas daw ako sa stage. Sabi ko talaga, rock concert eh, anong gagawin mo? Pero yun, feel na feel mo yung experience when you’re a part of something like that, and it’s something that I’ll never forget.” [Whatever I was doing, I ended up going beyond the stage. I said it’s a rock concert, what could I do? But yeah, you really get to feel the experience when you’re a part of something like that, and it’s something that I’ll never forget.]

Talking about the lasting impression the first show of ‘Regine Rocks’ has left on her, the pop icon looks back on the energy of the crowd; noting how it felt like a transactional expression of energy between all parties presence. “When you do a concert, it’s the music and the people that you’re singing to, together with the energy that you give to people, that feels like there is a transfer of appreciation and admiration. They also give it back to you, and parang bumabalik yun lahat sayo ” [and all of it goes back to you], she says. “You can’t help it, and the energy is actually very, very addicting. Ibang klase siyang high, and may instant gratification yan as a performer.” [It’s a different kind of high, and there’s an instant gratification that you get as a performer.]

Regine rocks square

With another performance coming up very soon, Velasquez-Alcasid notes just how excited she is to relive the experience once more. “So, it’s gonna happen again soon, and I’m excited to see it come to life for the encore”, she states. “Yung energy kasi, bumabalik talaga sayo eh [The energy, it really goes back to you], and it doesn’t leave you for a long, long time.”

As Asia’s songbird continues to spread her wings, there’s no doubt about how far she’ll continue to fly all these years in her career. What ‘Regine Rocks’ ultimately proves is that it’s never too late to branch out, take risks, and explore new sonic territory –– even if you’ve already made your own mark in an established pathway. And for Velasquez-Alcasid, it surely proves that there is still so much more in store for her career, more than four decades on her legacy as an OPM icon.