Musician-visual artist Rodel Gonzalez is always happy to be back in Manila, his hometown and where he first found success as cofounder of Side A — which, for several years in the 1980s and ’90s, was the country’s biggest band in the live circuit.
Now based in Florida in the United States — where he has struck gold as the only Filipino to be granted a license to do Disney, Marvel and Star Wars fine art — Gonzalez is in town for two reasons: to play at “Side A Then and Now: The Repeat,” which will feature the band’s original and current members in one concert on June 1 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, Pasay; and to exhibit his works at “Rodel Gonzalez Manila Art Show” on June 3 at The Collab, Sheraton Hotel, Newport Boulevard, Pasay.
Gonzalez had an online chat with ANCX upon arrival in the country a few days ago where he answered questions on the upcoming concert, his art career, and his favorite Side A songs.
What can the audience expect from this repeat performance of Side A’s Newport concert?
“Side A Then and Now” is a concept, not a reunion concert. I just want to clear that up, because people have been asking why Joey G wasn’t part of this concept.
When the original members got together during the pandemic for a couple of online concerts, we and the current Side A agreed to put up a new show — Mar Dizon, Pido, Joey Benin, my brother Naldy, and I to represent the “then,” and the present lineup (Naldy, Leevon Cailao, Ernie Severino, Ned Esguerra, Yubs Esperat) as the “now.” Unfortunately, another original member, Kelly Badon, is in the US and can’t join us again (he missed the first show) for the repeat this June 1st.
Following the success of the show last September 2022, people were clamoring for a repeat. More than all the hit songs the fans will hear from this concert, they will also see and feel the energy and camaraderie of the two groups combined, which is a rare thing and may never happen again.
Though we, the original members, are representing the band “then,” this is who we are now after 35 years of not playing together. It’s exciting for me to sing our old hits, as well as the new originals that we performed during the pandemic at the Side A Redux online gig, namely: “Sara” and “O Diyos Ko,” both penned by Joey Benin who also wrote “Only You” and “Forevermore.”
Have you considered adding songs from the band’s Calesa Bar days that have been left out of the “Then and Now” repertoire?
Yes, we took out some songs from the show last September, and added a few more that we used to play at Calesa Bar. Surprise na lang.
What’s your favorite cover song from the early days, and why? Which among the originals do you consider special, and why?
I have many favorite cover songs, too many to mention. But one that we will do on June 1 is by Gino Vanelli. Original Side A songs I deem special are “Di Pa Huli, “Eva Marie,” and “Windows of Our Souls” from the first album. I wrote “Di Pa Huli,” while Pido wrote “Windows,” and “Eva Marie” is special, since it’s the song we first recorded and which paved the way for Side A to do an album.
You’re back in Manila for two reasons: the Newport concert repeat, and your solo art exhibit. Tell us about the exhibit.
On June 3 at 7 p.m., I will hold my first art show at The Collab in Sheraton Manila, Newport World Resorts. It will feature the whole spectrum of who I am as an artist from Disney, Marvel and Star Wars fine art. I’m the only Filipino who has three licenses to do that. I’ll also feature my own fine art to complete the body of works. This is by invitation only, and was produced by Newport World Resorts, Sheraton Manila and Kartini Gallery. As a bonus, Side A will perform an acoustic set.
How would you describe your art career at this point? Do you think you’re peaking creatively?
As an artist in the US since 2002, I can’t ask for more since it’s my dream to see my works get exposure all over the world. What a privilege to make it happen, with Disney, Marvel and Star Wars fine art’s distribution and gallery outlets. It’s safe to say I’m represented by hundreds of galleries worldwide, which is not an exaggeration. Thanks to the James Coleman Studios in LA for making my dream come true!
[See samples of Gonzalez’s Disney fine art works here.]