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VR makes for an intimate concert experience

By Zsarlene B. Chua, Senior Reporter

Alden’s Reality
Featuring Alden Richards

BILLED as the country’s first virtual reality (VR) concert, Alden’s Reality promised an intimate celebration of Alden Richards’ 10th year in the entertainment industry, and it was, as the hour-long concert (excluding commercials and a 10-minute intermission) showed that while Mr. Richards is not the best singer and dancer in the industry, he does make up for it with genuine effort.

The concert opened with Mr. Richards in bed, asleep, and waiting for his “date” (the viewer). When his date arrives, Mr. Richards awakes and dresses up, all the while talking about his family and his dog whom he called his “dance partner.”

The concert had three screening schedules: at 9 and 11 p.m. on Dec. 8, and at 10 a.m. on Dec. 9.

Since this was a “virtual reality” concert, viewers were given a 360-degree view of the “house” which was apparently a CGI set. In terms of viewability, using the VR device (given to VIP ticket holders) does make the immersive experience better, though the strain of having to hold up the phone screen and the device against one’s eyes can be troublesome.

Announcements made during the concert reminded people to take “frequent breaks” while using the VR devices, and assured them (and the general admissions audience who did not have the VR devices) that the concert could be viewed satisfactorily without the device and that people could swipe or move their devices to see what was happening. As this writer experienced, the concert could be viewed comfortably without the device though the VR viewer did bring a more immersion.

After the opening spiel, Mr. Richards shifts to the concert stage where he performed “Kapag Malapit Ka,” and in all fairness, the VR device did make it look like he was singing and performing right in front of you.

A 180-degree turn led the viewer to a screen that showed how the concert would look like on a traditional TV screen.

Richards was then  joined by Rodjun and Rayver Cruz with whom he sang “Quit Playing Games with My Heart” by the Backstreet Boys and “Best Song Ever” by One Direction, and shared an enthusiastic dance break with. The lighting was not very good in this section, but that could be forgiven.

The concert’s director, Paolo Valenciano, mentioned in a press conference in late November, that they really worked hard on the concert and that it was a difficult concert to mount because of all the technical requirements.

“Taking a major risk tonight. We have no idea how people are gonna respond to this,” Mr. Valenciano posted on Instagram on Dec. 8. “One thing I can say though, the guy’s (Alden Richards) got balls.This is unknown territory for everyone involved. But the ‘reality’ is, we need to push boundaries or we fade away into oblivion,” he added.

The concert was divided into three parts, with Mr. Richards talking about his journey in the industry during the transitions, including how he started and how his family played a huge role in his career. He admitted that the career was something his mother (who passed away 12 years ago) wanted for him and that his family needed the money then, which is why he eventually became an actor.

The second and third sections had Mr. Richards singing ballads — with the exception of the performances of his new single, “Goin Crazy,” and BTS’s “Dynamite.” The ballads included Brian White’s “God Gave Me You,” the song that played a big part in his journey to superstardom as it was the theme song of the AlDub loveteam between him and Maine Mendoza that began in 2015.

In the last part of the concert — and after a gracious 10-minute intermission for VR viewers — he was joined by rock band December Avenue where they sang the band’s hits “Kung Di Rin Lang Ikaw” and “Kahit Hindi Mo Alam.”

Mr. Richards ended the concert with a few more songs including Daughtry’s “Home” and Ariel Rivera’s “Sana Ngayong Pasko.

In all, Alden’s Reality delivered what it promised, a virtual experience, and it really showed how much effort was put into setting up the concert and makes good Mr. Richards’ promise that it would feel like the performance was for the individual viewer. It really felt intimate and it opened up a world of possibilities for a different concert-going experience.

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