Was it only yesterday that we were coining cheesy yet ardent catch phrases as Vote Like Yamin it, Yaminions hold dominion, and the die-hard, Yaminions, no matter what the opinion? We can even go way back to his astounding debut performance on the Idol stage, "If You Really Love Me", to week after week of top caliber performances, to the tense and nail-biting results shows, culminating in an against-all-odds top 3 spot, sealed with a tearful and poignant good-bye. Now, it all comes down to one definitive moment. These are things you don't even begin to imagine, having your American Idol in the flesh, be within the same breathing space, and hear him live.
Nevertheless, there I was at Elliott Yamin's first ever concert/promotional tour outside of the US, at the Ayala Trinoma. Of all the places to begin his international expansion, he chooses the Philippines. As I sat facing the stage in my fifth row seat, with the iconic Idol oval-shaped screen as backdrop, I could only pinch and bruise myself silly, but here it was, a dream that had come true.
What does it take to ensure a fantastic Friday night of Elliot Yamin proportions? Lots of hoping and praying that schedules fall into place, bosses who indulge your fanatic tendencies and amusedly allow you to report to work late and leave 'early', fellow fangirls who take the early morning journey, ditching work and class. With Patty and Ina in tow, we get in line for the mall opening, literally run Amazing Race-style toward the main concierge and marvel at how many people had come for the much coveted seating stubs. It was a proud moment, though, for us to see the snaking queue for our Idol--this little E-train really could and how.
The show itself lasted less than the allotted hour, but every minute was well worth it. We clapped furiously, screamed lustily, waved our hands, pumped our fists, sang along, shouted for more, and just relished every note he let out. As soon as the band members came out on stage, the crowd was delirious. Elliott kicked off the acoustic set with his album's first track "Movin' On", one of my favorites. I still would have wanted to bring the energy level a notch up. Yes, I know we had seats for sitting in, but goodness, couldn't people stand up, dance and groove a bit?
With every number, we anticipated the next song, making our guesses based on his spiels (Elliott mentions Iraq, Patty says Trainwreck--Wrong). With each opening strain, we'd shriek with anticipation of what he had in store. Cameras clicked and flashed; the videocam rolled. This was no holds barred adulation and fangirl-ism of the highest order.
The line-up included the amazing "One Word", the inspirational "Find a Way", the infectious chorus of "Free" (all together now: alright, alright!), and the soulful "Trainwreck". The debut album "Elliott Yamin" is a solid, first-rate effort, but his live performances surpass the recordings with his warmth, spontaneity and easy presence. Elliott comfortably melds genres, from pop, R&B, soul, jazz, creating his own sound.
Then came the time for that song, perhaps what most of those in the audience had been waiting for--his certified Philippine radio hit, "Wait For You". Snap, the throng just lost it and went crazy. The reception was overwhelming, really, who knew he had become this popular in these parts of the Islands, as I believe he puts it.
The show would not have been complete without the Elliott classics. Reminiscing his Idol days, he introduced the moving piece "A Song For You". Backed only by keyboards, his voice rang true, and brought us all back to that haunting first audition. He then thrilled everyone with an a capella encore number of "Moody's Mood for Love". Who could forget this star turn on American Idol, and his first recorded single?
Still, I will always remember the head-bopping, feet-thumping number, "In Love With You Forever". This was the only song I was not familiar with, being a B-side track from I-Tunes. He got our hands clapping along with the rhythm, as he laid on the funk and soul, repeating the line, You are mine with such joyful conviction.
As if staging the show wasn't enough, the Ayala production included a chaotic but commendable effort to bring Elliott 'closer' to the people. The Meet and Greet portion, as well as the CD autograph signing proceeded in the most hierarchical of ways. With stubs ranging the entire color spectrum, our Elliott encounters-to-be were determined by the different colored tickets we held. Some would be lucky to get a picture with him, others would have his scrawl of "Salamat" immortalized on their CD liner notes, while others would get an autographed photo of the man. Choose one or the other.
The three of us (Patty, Ina and I) were fortunate to be part of the first 50 buyers of his album at the Odyssey booth set-up that morning. I was lucky number 21, the date of this most memorable evening. We waited out our turn behind the ropes, and before we knew it, we whisked ourselves into the inner sanctum. Just before we got on stage, we held our own mini 'meet and greet' session with the band members (Aaron Goldstein, Joonie Gary and Russell Ali, who was hot enough to merit a photo/autograph.
My Elliott moment is all just a blur now, ranking up there with such surreal instances that go by far too fast. Did I spend far too much time gushing and praising him (amazing is in danger of being overused!)? Or perhaps spelling my name P-A-M-Y, and making sure he got it right? All the while, he seemed genuinely attentive and grateful. With a few strokes of his silver marker, some friendly words, then a damp, sweaty hug, it was over. No picture to capture the visuals, yes, but the feeling still hasn't worn off.
When all three of us were offstage, we yelled one last "We Love You Elliott", with all the giddy adoration we could muster. In love forever could be an understatement, even.
More than just the excellent talent, Elliott Yamin brings a groundedness and humanity to the dizzying world of celebrity. He truly is the most real person I've ever seen on a reality TV show. With no need for gimmicks, he endears himself to his audience with a personal connection that no other Idol can match, past, present or future.
Before the life altering Philippine Idol or the scorching beat-boxing of Blake Lewis, there was Elliott Yamin, the first Idol we truly rooted for.
And no matter what the opinion or the season, I'm still a Yaminion.
To borrow our old sign-off phrase from long ago--Elliott pa rin.
Edit: More pictures at my Multiply
*Patty, could there ever be a monumental Idol experience without you to share it with? I can't wait for your recap ;)
**Ina, aren't you glad you came? I am. Let it all out, there's a lot of Elliott Love to go around.
***out_of_focus, Yam, thanks for the beautiful shirts; 24fps, Cla, for sharing your Elliott moments.
****And thanks to Des and Jody--dinner was lovely, the wee hours of the morning engaging, and the ride home safe and sound.