By Michelle Anne P. Soliman, Reporter
The Voice of Fra Lippo Lippi
Newport Performing Arts Theater,
Resorts World Manila, Pasay City
WE WERE ON EDSA some time in the 1990s when dad played the album Fra Lippo Lippi’s The Virgin Years: Greatest Hits (1997) on the car’s stereo system, the New Wave music filling the space as we made our way home. That is how I was introduced to the unique sound of the Norwegian duo whose group name I did not know then — not until I found the old album hidden deep in a shelf in my early teens.
Many years later, I got a chance to Fra Lippo Lippi’s frontman Per Sorensen perform live in concert. Sorensen kept the Fra Lippo Lippi brand, after splitting with his partner Rune Kristofferson in 2002. This time he was performing with his two sons.
On the evening of Dec. 6, the audience found the stage of the lightly populated Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila in Pasay City divided in two — on the right was a band which included a bass guitarist, drummer, and keyboard player; on the left, the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of maestro Rodel Colmenar. The two groups were separated by a white baby grand piano at the center.
When the music started, the stage lit up with psychedelic colors and patterns on the theater’s giant LED screen. Dressed in a pale suit and black shirt, Per Sorensen sang the first lines to “Distance Between Us” (1986).
The singer stood under the lights, his thinning light hair hinted at his age; but his voice sounded as pure as when I first heard it.
The first song was followed by “Shouldn’t Have to Be Like That” (1986), played simply on piano; then Mr. Sorensen stood in front of a microphone for “Even Tall Trees Bend” (1986).
After the first three songs, the singer spoke to the audience, telling them that some Filipino fans had sent messages to his official Facebook page about which songs they hoped he would perform that evening. He proceeded to sing “Mother’s Little Soldier” (1990) which was one of the songs which his fans had said meant a lot to them when they went through difficult times.
By 9 p.m. the theater’s empty seats were mostly filled. “There’s more people here now — I thought you didn’t have much traffic in Manila?” the singer joked.
The audience fell quiet when he proceeded to play his favorite song, “Will I Recognize” (2002) on the piano and showcased his well-maintained vocals; this was followed by a lovely string section-accompanied rendition of “Light and Shade” (1987).
The first segment of the show ended with an energetic solo performance on electric guitar and vocals by his son, Jack Holldorff.
The second half of the show saw Mr. Sorensen returned to the stage dressed all in black, and he proceeded to perform “Regrets” (1986), “Angel” (1987), and a sorrowful ballad, “I Will Hold You” (a song he had written about dealing with a difficult marriage) with Mr. Sorensen alternately playing the piano and an electric keyboard.
The atmosphere in the theater shifted into an interactive sing-along with “Some People” (1988). The singer instructed the audience at the center of the theater to sing the song’s melody while his two sons assisted in instructing the left and right sides of the crowd to sing harmony in a lower and higher octave respectively.
Before taking a second break from the stage, he introduced his son, Oskar Holldorff, who played an original composition titled “Wondering” on the piano.
He returned onstage with delight as he commended his sons for performing with him for the first time.
Sitting at the piano, a faint squeal in the crowd echoed when the first bars to “Later” (2002) were played — the song was only a warm up to the rest of the ballads which the crowd sang along to.
“Everytime I See You” (1986) — the song that I had been waiting for that evening — was sung in a version similar to the original on the album.
After cheerful applause, a male audience member shouted, “Stitches and Burns!” To which the singer replied, “If you say so.” He sat in front of the piano as the crowd enjoyed the performance.
As the crowd screamed for more, a female audience member shouted, “Beauty and Madness!” And, of course, without objection, the piano introduction followed.
The singer has returned multiple times to the Philippines since he first performed here in 1988, always welcomed warmly.
He closed the show by saying that “coming here to the Philippines is absolutely like coming home.” With that, he sang a heartfelt rendition of “Coming Home” (1985) as he played the piano.
All throughout the evening, Mr. Sorensen’s voice sounded rich in tone even when accompanied by the orchestra and the band. His performance was, as they say in Norwegian, nydelig!
By Michelle Anne P. Soliman, Reporter