Project Allison: the gig itself

Jean was one of Valerie's Cookista friends that came along to watch as well. She had, in her bag, a photo of Allie, taken during her birthday, which was just a week before. It was the one with Kris Allen and David Cook - but of course, right?

I was struck by the fact that, it seemed, she had it printed at a photo shop somewhere. I wonder what the staff thought when they found themselves printing a photo of two American Idol winners and somebody with red hair who they vaguely remember, if they even do.

Valerie took one of the photos and put it in her CD inlay. She was hoping to have it signed, along with her CDs, never mind the fact that she already had an autographed copy of Just Like You, one she bought online.

I was probably overwhelmed.

The concert finally began at around half past six. The Channel V hosts already had their chance to shine, although the results were either frantic or wet. I've been waiting for two and a half hours, and I was getting jumpy. Can we just get over it? I thought.

They thankfully did.

Just as I expected, the gig was a bit rushed. We were wondering why they insisted on calling it a "promo tour" when it only amounted to one hastily-organized gig at an unlikely mall. There wasn't a band. Heck, there weren't any instruments either. The idea of Allie singing six songs accompanied by what we all call a minus one is a little iffy to me. That, or she had a lot of ground to cover.

"She's also super awkward," Kira - another David Cook fan, only one who lives in Dallas, who I knew through Valerie - reminded me earlier that day. I wouldn't have suspected. In between thanking the crowd with the obligatory mangled "salamat po" and introductions, she was taking down the mic stand and doing a lot of hand gestures. I swear at one point she was singing to me, probably because I was the only straight guy in the crowd who wasn't anyone's father. Or that's how it felt.

It felt like those U-Break concerts all over again. I had stub number 30, so I was seated at the edge of the third row. For some reason I decided to sit in one of the reserved seats ahead of me - presumably they were for the media, but only two out of ten got filled. After Allie finished Robot Love - it's the "humiliating pop song" I talked about in my review - I decided to leave that spot and seat on the floor, in the middle aisle, so I can have a better look, not to mention better photos, although that didn't happen.

"I haven't performed this song in a while," she said, before dovetailing to Janis Joplin's Cry Baby.

I remember that being performed on American Idol. She was just 16 back then, a surprising standout in what was supposed to be (and actually is) a season of men. Back then I saw her as this young teener with a freaky vocal, because it can take on more mature songs effortlessly. Now I'm watching this 18-year-old do just that, with a painful song at that, and with gestures that I absolutely swear spoke to me. Or I guess it was one of those fudge-it-I'm-the-subject moments. It's never happened to me before.

And then I thought, am I seriously thinking she's being a little sexy with this one?

"She is curvy," Valerie said on our bus ride home later that night. I still can't shake the earlier image off.

She also went down the stage with that song. I remember being surrounded by all these screaming girls with cameras, making me feel a little out of place. But I reached out my hand anyway. Heck, I thought, we'll just do this. Writing this now, I don't know if her fingers actually touched mine, or if it was one of the other fans'.

"Don't wash off where you made contact!" Cha, another one of the Cookistas acting as Twitter support, told me the following day.

There were, as I said, six songs. Scars and Friday I'll Be Over U obviously figured, being the songs that get radio airplay. No One Else was a slightly surprising entry to the set list, although since it's penned by Pink and Kara DioGuardi, it shouldn't have been. Me, I'm just happy Don't Waste the Pretty made it. I don't care if my favorite song off the album is a women empowerment song.

In between complaints of humid Manila summers and endorsements of pork adobo, Allie was really bringing it. She's only been at it for a year - well, less than a year - and she really knew how to work the crowd. It also helped that the crowd was very enthusiastic. Valerie and her row of friends - there was Jean, there was Madel, and there was Joanna - made it a point to scream together, and in the middle of the chaos, and especially after that, they'd yell out a simultaneous, pitch-perfect "we love you Allison!" On the other hand, I wasn't screaming - I made a point not to get giddy at all - but I still lost my voice. It was that strong.

"Did you know that Allison Iraheta won the Spanish talent search Quincanera?" the VJs had to remind us before the gig. Yeah, yeah, we're fans, we know that. I wrote about her. I have to know that.

And then, it was over. I found the whole experience surreal. Even when the VJs went out again for a quick Q&A session - the Cookistas got their obligatory David-related question from someone else in the crowd - I still found it surreal. And I knew it's get surreal, as I pulled out my CD and waited for further instructions.

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