05 August 2016

Our Intimate Experience with Clara Benin at her Coming Home Concert

It’s not uncommon for artists to take hiatuses from the limelight, but it comes as a surprise when a promising act decides to bow out just as their light is beginning to shine. A relative newcomer to the local music scene, Clara Benin started conversations with her earnest songs that emanated faith and an almost serene quality. Despite the shadow cast by her well-known musician of a father, Clara soon carved a name for herself with her unassuming yet soothing music worthy of repeated listening.

This was a concert, but it was in no way a show filled with theatrics and needless visuals. Just some heartfelt music and poetry was enough.

Words by Lausanne Barlaan & Photos by Andrei Suleik
In partnership with Stages Sessions

Clara describes her music as “coffee shop music,” but it was evident that she was made for a much bigger venue and much wider recognition. Soon after the announcement of the concert that she will have before taking a hiatus, the local music community clamored for tickets to see Clara perform for what might be the last time in a while, so much so that a second night had to be opened for people to be accommodated.

Though Clara’s Coming Home was set in a venue as big as Teatrino, it was clear that the night was an intimate send-off, with the dimly-lit stage strewn with books, carpets, and lamps. This was a concert, but it was in no way a show filled with theatrics and needless visuals. Just some heartfelt music and poetry was enough.

Indie-folk band Munimuni started the night with their songs and stories, their relaxed banter inviting the audience as if they were part of their circle of trusted friends. And while most concerts leave the audience to their own devices while the next act is setting up, Clara’s Coming Home offered a welcome surprise to pass the setup time. Spoken word artists, commenced by a moving performance by Fiona Comendador, provided a worthwhile way to usher in and transition to the next act.

Clara soon entered the stage with Human Eyes off her first full album. She was soon joined by singer-songwriter Quest as they sung of No Greater Love, backed by Clara’s friends Poch Barretto and Justin Ratilla. They followed it up with the upbeat Be My Thrill, with Quest injecting his verses as Clara crooned. It was one of the liveliest moments of the night, most likely due to the infectious energy that radiated from the stage as Quest and Clara sung.

To usher in the next act, up-and-coming rapper Curtismith performed a timely piece about his beloved Philippines’ struggle with greed and fear-mongering, his memorable poetry infused with Bible verses. The stage was lit up next with the powerful lineup of singer-songwriters Reese Lansangan, Rizza Cabrera, and Keiko Necesario blending in with Clara, supported by talented musicians (among them singer-cellist Coeli San Luis). What followed was a glorious set by the quartet as they performed Some Kind of Magic and Just For Now, their harmonies inducing goosebumps and well-deserved cheers from the crowd. Bob Ecarma closed the first half of the concert with her piece Tug, speaking of drifting away, finding peace, and returning home.

Welcoming an even more stripped down second set, Clara drifted onto the stage in a white dress and bare feet. She invited her “favorite person to make music with” onstage, who unsurprisingly turned out to be her father Joey Benin. Together, they calmed the audience with performances of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now and a newly-penned song by Clara called Momentary.

Clara ended her concert with Dust, with the audience singing along in hushed whispers, as if willing the inevitable end of the night to stall its arrival. The audience did not hold back on the eager applause as Clara and the rest of the performers bowed, cheering for an encore.

While Clara might be leaving for a while, it was apparent that she will always have this loving community to come home to.


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