IN PHOTOS: Tower of Power in Manila

Whoever came up with the expression "blew the roof off the joint" must have experienced a Tower of Power concert. 

With an uncanny vitality, they amazed the Manila crowd with their signature sound, non-stop in-your-face energy and lively stage presence that could make a statue sway to the beat. It’s not just the horns that set you back with force but the ability for such a large assembly to play as one cohesive unit. Throw in various ripping guitar licks, perfectly matched keyboards, soulful vocals with a bass guitar and drums that maintain a perfect rhythm throughout the show and you have a sensational live performance that is rarely matched.

The legendary ten-piece band hailing from Oakland, California, was founded in the late 60’s and is now on tour celebrating their 50th anniversary.

As you would expect from a band that’s been around for so long, they’ve seen changes in the line-up throughout the years. But their soulful R&B remains essentially unchanged even after decades – perhaps due to the fact that two of the original saxophonists, Stephen “Funky Doctor” Kupka, and Emilio Castillo along with the original drummer David Garibaldi still write and perform with the group as they have from day one.

As the bandleader, Emilio is on tenor and alto saxophones along with backing and occasionally lead vocals. Marcus Scott is on lead vocals. Rounding out the group are Tom Politzer on saxophone, Jerry Cortez on guitar, Roger Smith on keyboards, Sal Cracchiolo and Adolfo Acosta on trumpet, and Marc Van Wageningen on bass.

It was not the first time the band had performed here. “The last time we played here was in 1974,” said Emilio.

"There’s one thing I know about the Filipino people they got good musical ears, they got a whole latta soul!” he added. 

Marcus is the newest member of the band and has some big shoes to fill with the passing of their former lead singer about a year ago. To my delight, Marcus appears to embody the soulful sound of the music itself, while breathing new life into it.

With soaring vocal prowess, he manages to stay on top of the powerful horn section. The band’s latest album, The Soul Side of Town is certainly proof that their music is current and as fresh as their decades-old hit songs. 

Special guests Dennis Lambert and Kalapana also performed that night. 

The crowd included young faces although a majority of the attendees were in the category of 70’s soul disciples from the peace-and-love era. Marcus, dressed in the appropriated garb for their genre, came down from the stage and among the crowd on a couple of occasions to the delight of the fans.

They kicked off the show with “We Came To Play,” and ended with “Souled Out”.

As you would expect they performed their hits “What Is Hip,” “So Very Hard to Go,” “Time Will Tell,” and “You’re Still a Young Man,” while mixing in new songs like the “The Soul Side of Town."

If you've never heard any of their songs, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish if the tracks were written this year or forty years ago. Die-hard fans were pleasantly surprised when they performed a special request submitted in advance by the Ovation Production team – “Sparkling in the Sand” is not in the standard setlist for this tour.

Emilio explained to the audience they had been practicing it for the last couple of weeks and they love playing it now.

It was a fantastic night of unique and unmistakable soul music. The band played with passion and delivered with a unique groove with a horn-driven sound and an impeccable vocal performance.

A conglomeration of uber-talented artists, living legends if you will, all on the same wavelength made the event feel more like a force of nature than simply a concert. –