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RIGHT AFTER THE EURO-STAR brought me back to Paris from London, I set off for another adventure, heading off to little town Arras for its Main Square Festival (where I caught Radiohead & Sigur Ros back-to-back in 2008). I only caught one day of the festival (I had already watched Coldplay in Paris the year prior, and I knew Katy Perry was coming to Manila), primarily to watch one of my favorite dance-pop acts, Phoenix. Kanye West (I know) and Lily Allen were the main acts, because ironically, Phoenix is bigger outside of France (maybe because they sing in English?).

I was so exhausted from Glastonbury that I most inconveniently fell asleep on my friend?s couch before missing my train to Arras. I was livid? how could I do such a thing when I was so excited to see Sofia Coppola?s hipster hubby dance to my ultimate feel-good anthem, ?If I Ever Feel Better?? Catching the next train, I hit the Arras ground running in my yellow boots as the strains of Phoenix got louder and louder, telling me I was closer to my destination. I caught a total of three songs (both in marathon mode and standstill). But I was happy. I thought, here?s a reason to catch them again. Lily Allen was cute and entertaining, but Kanye?s set I didn?t finish, I didn?t want to catch the last train home (sorry, I?m not really a fan of his, even before he terrorized Taylor Swift).

Madonna! (Yes, Madonna!)

Another item on my bucket list was catching Madonna live. Last March, I had pestered my friend Monique in Paris to grab me a ticket to Mother Madge?s gig at Bercy.

That same day, I ran an errand at Place Vendome for a friend, and just my luck?I discover from a mob of people in front of the Ritz that Madonna was about to leave the hotel! A mix of paparazzi, curious tourists, and die-hard Madge fans had been waiting for two hours to catch her. Thanks to my minute size, I was able to squeeze in and weasel my way to the front of the crowd to catch her graceful, makeup-less exit! I posted the pic I took on Facebook and Twitter as soon as I could!

My Madonna sighting brought the concert experience to a whole new level. Imagine, I was just a few feet away from her earlier that day! And I really thought I knew what to expect from her concert as I?ve seen a lot of her videos but I was wrong. She has so much power live?I could not help from dancing like a lunatic, her energy is unparalleled! She was over an hour late to the gig, but the show was worth the wait (and not without an MJ Tribute either?a doppelganger of his made a cameo onstage). I especially love how she now totes an electric guitar for her gigs, she can even pull off ?Rock Star? with aplomb. That woman is a force of nature, and more!

After the show, I was pleasantly surprised to see Marco and Jackie Antonio who managed to grab some last-minute tickets to catch the gig. From Manila, all the way to Paris, Madonna fans unite!

U2 at Stade de France

I am ashamed to say this, but a pair of Junior Tods and an extremely long line at Le Bon Marche waylaid my U2 sojourn for a few hours. I missed the Kaiser Chiefs opening set, and a few of the songs. I was running to Stade de France as Bono sang the first measures of ?Beautiful Day? ?I was so upset with myself! Another shoe-loving woman (or gay man) would understand me though.

My best guy friend Edu and I had planned to see the Irish band all our lives, but married life and a political career (obviously not mine), so I ticked it off my bucket list without him. I did record some videos and sang along to his favorite songs in his behalf.

My verdict about the concert though: All these years of anticipation made me forget that I was no longer the 12-year-old who loved their music. I find them a bit too political, or too Mega Band for my taste now (perhaps I have regressed), and the live exchange between the band and some men on a space shuttle somewhere I didn?t really get. The show was still entertaining though, like a Michael Bay blockbuster film, somewhat.

The decades of playing were evident though, they played flawlessly, effortlessly?Live Album fare, definitely. But perhaps it is my own experience as an indie musician that has me relate better to small, intimate gigs?the flaws give the experience more character, in my eyes (and ears).

Kate Torralba en Concert à Paris!

My Fete de la Musique performances were very well-received that Galerie Talmart invited me to sing again at a private concert in July. It was an honor to have former French Ambassador to the Philippines Monsieur Gerard Chesnel and his wife in the front row, as well as a mixed audience of French and Filipino music enthusiasts.

Very strange how men in the audience were reacting to my singing?a few of them broke into tears. I suppose it is because my music expresses deep emotion and melancholia, the opposite of what my clothes represent: My joys and all sorts of happy madness.

I sang mostly in English (including a single ?Tissue Box? from my upcoming debut album Long Overdue), sang a Visayan tune ?Usahay,? and did a rendition of Josephine Baker?s ?J?ai Deux Amours,? which tells of a foreigner?s love for her own country and that of Paris. Obviously, the repertoire meant a lot to me.

KT meets Aimee Mann

August marked another Bucket List Tickoff moment?my idol Aimee Mann was playing at the Esplanade Concert Hall in Singapore! I rounded up a group of fellow fans from the Philippines (including Buddy Zabala and his wife Earnest, Quark Henares, and more)?and we were collectively blown away by Miss Mann?s very laid-back and generous set. I was teary-eyed when she played another one of my all-time faves, ?Amateur,? and she even wrapped up the set with an encore of ?Voices Carry,? her major hit with former 80?s outfit ?Til Tuesday.

The kind people of Greenhorn Productions knew what a crazed Mann fan I was?and before the show, they messaged me that there would be a 15-minute Meet-and-Greet post-gig. I was beside myself from excitement! And so I was the happy camper, toting an autographed CD and her set list as we had the ubiquitous fan photo taken with our idol.

I gave her one of my tops as my ?Aimee-You-Are-My-Goddess? offering, and a Super-fan latter. You think that was shameful? I actually was in better behavior that night than when I met Sting in 2004, but that?s another story altogether. You might be pleased to know that Miss Aimee asked me, ?Do you know Manny Pacquiao?? because she does, she is a fan too; Freddie Roach, she says, is her buddy. She is married to Michael Penn, singer-songwriter brother of Sean Penn. That girl is too cool for school, really.

Manila?s got music, too

I was so thrilled for the awesome gigs I saw in Manila in 2009: The massive Eraserheads ?Final Set? concert, Crossover?s Basia show at Araneta, classic Dionne Warwick (who would not be dissuaded by Typhoon ?Pepeng? from going on with the show), Katy Perry (thanks to MTV Philippines, I watched her gig AND met her too!), Nine Inch Nails (thank God Trent Reznor married that hot Bisaya chick named Mariqueen), and Berklee-trained jazz princess Esperanza Spalding (another show that made me cry).

I even had the honor of dressing Esperanza, who?s even performed for President Obama himself, for her successful Sofitel show (thanks to Soul Experiment Productions). And though I missed her mall tour, Super?s Lenka special showed you how I got to dress the Aussie pop nymph Lenka for her interview spread.

Yo-Yo Ma in Hong Kong

And just when I thought I had all the concert fixes I could get this year, the Universe gave me another gift before December even started! Thanks to a patron?s last minute cancellation, I scored a fantastic seat to cello superstar Yo-Yo Ma?s performance with pianist Kathryn Stott in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Cultural Centre?s 20th Anniversary show was, in one word, sublime. I was surprised that the 15-time Grammy winner did not make me cry, but the reason is that I held on to every masterfully played note.

I could not believe my good fortune in terms of music in 2009. (I thought, perhaps it?s because I was not lucky in love last year? Haha.) This year of concerts and shows has been so remarkable for me, I mumbled to myself many times over, ?I can die now.? But nah, why die, when there are so many other wonderful things to look forward to! I believe we should all enjoy whatever makes us happy (a show, a relationship, travel or sports) in this fleeting life. Thank you, Lord, for having me live mine to the fullest ?I am ever so grateful.

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