MANU CHAO GETS KINKY IN CALI

By Tyler Hammer

Manu Chao & Kinky :: 07.28.06 :: Greek Theatre :: Berkeley, CA


Manu Chao
There was certainly a lot of hoop-la surrounding Manu Chao's announcement this summer that he was to play a show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. When announced back in June, my email inbox was inundated with a flurry of notes, each emphatically expressing their glee at the announcement. At the time, I simply sighed, dismissed it as just another show, and thought yet again how rich one must be to actually go to all the amazing shows in the Bay Area.

But the more I kept hearing about the show, the more interested I became. Manu Chao hasn't played a show in The States since 2001, and Berkeley was to be the first stop on his U.S. tour. I even read about one girl who cancelled her trip to South America just so she could go to the show!

Just what is it about this guy that has so many people from all over the world going gaga over his music? What has made him the international superstar that is Manu Chao? I thought it best to find out for myself. So I called up my friend who sent me one of the emails and told her I was in.


Kinky by Brett Saul
The evening started on the highest of notes with Kinky - a self-proclaimed "Latino dance funk band." This five-piece group hails from Monterey, Mexico and knows how get a party started. Little known (so far) in The States, Kinky has blazed a trail of success since forming in 2000. They bring with them an air of rock stardom fit for a band ten times as big. Bassist Cesar Pliego and singer Gilberto Cerezo demand much of the spotlight, carrying the majority of the ego that all big bands need. Pliego sports a cowboy hat and seems to get off by riding his bass as he gallops back and forth across the stage – all with a half-smoked cigarette dangling from his lips. As Pliego abuses his bass, Cerezo controls the microphone, adding his own punk/rock style to the music.

The vibe started out pretty tame, as the crowd was more concerned with getting settled for the main event. But by the third song, Kinky had everyone on board with the deep, truncated bass line of "Mirando de Lado" from their self-titled debut album.


Kinky by Brett Saul
Yet the cool air of another foggy night by the Bay was only beginning to heat up as Kinky then showcased a few songs from their upcoming album - Reina - due out in September. Sticking with their roots in electro-pop, Kinky sounded the sirens with a house-style beat in "Coqueta" that could just as easily have been played in a late-night dance club in San Francisco." The crowd happily lapped it up, and hardly a person was standing still. A few more smokin' songs, and then the set came to an end with "Mas." An anthem of sorts for Kinky, this hit song, as well as the rest of the set, had everyone yelling for mas.

Kinky has found huge support in Europe and has brought home not one, not two, but three Grammy Awards. They first came onto my own personal radar in the summer of 2005 when they played a late-night show at the High Sierra Music Festival. I came away from that show with a new favorite band. Not a jamband, not strictly electronic, Latin, rock, or funk, Kinky seems comfortable as a genre-bending band. With their unique combination of sounds and just enough Latin twang to constantly remind the listener that these cats are most certainly not from America, Kinky is sure to be making a lot more noise in the near future.


Manu Chao
After the spectacle of Kinky, the crowd was teeming with anticipation. Each member of Manu Chao's back-up band, Radio Bemba Sound System, came out on stage one at a time, picked up his or her instrument, and slowly built the musical momentum. Coming out last, Manu Chao jumped on stage, and the Greek seemed to explode. The energy was infectious. That overweight Latino guy standing next to me who barely blinked during the opening Kinky set was now going nuts, hopping around like a 15-year-old girl at a New Kids concert. I gave in to the good vibrations and jumped right along with my new friend.

In that opening song, Manu Chao concocted a rhythmic cocktail of beats, styles, and lyrics that had my head swirling like I was in the middle of an absinthe binge. I didn't quite know what to make of my surroundings and I can't quite piece it all together, but I have to admit it was fun.


Manu Chao
A few songs later during "Clandestino," I happened to gaze across the sea of people in the Greek and realized that more than any other show I've been to, this was truly an international affair. I saw a colorful array of Mexican, Brazilian, Spanish, French, Cuban, and American flags proudly waving in the marijuana-soaked air. Like all great performers, Manu Chao has the ability to bring people from every background, culture, and race together to share in that sublimely joyous occasion of a live show.

Of-course this hodge-podge ensemble of people is not without its reasons. Just as Manu Chao's music draws from a wide range of influences, including reggae, punk, ska, salsa and rock, so too do his lyrics. Touching on a variety of issues, from the mundane and silly to love, poverty, and world politics, Chao sings in a medley of seven languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, English, Arabic, and Wolof – often seamlessly weaving them into the same song. The whole aura surrounding Manu Chao, his music, and his fans oozes with eclecticism.

It was during "Me Gustas Tu" – and after nearly an hour of non-stop dancing, jumping, and arm-waving – that I realized the band hadn't taken even a one-moment break in their playing. The music was relentlessly fast-paced, in-your-face fun. It almost seemed to be daring me to stand still. For the most part, I couldn't.


Manu Chao
Yet after the novelty of that first hour and a half, the set seemed to lose much of its magic for me. Manu Chao and his band were certainly having a lot of fun and relishing the crowd's energy. The problem was they became too enamored with the crowd.

After apparently ending the show with a solid encore, Chao came back out for another encore, and another, and another (I think I counted five in all). What should have been a great moment with 45 minutes of additional music unfortunately turned repetitive. Each song seemed to bleed into the next, not really exploring any new territory. Manu Chao and his band relied on the same beats that dominated each song before it. Even songs played in the beginning of the show were repeated. Instead of going out with a bang, Manu Chao and the Radio Bemba Sound System went out with little more than a pop.

Nevertheless, it was clear why Manu Chao has become the international superstar that he is. For a 45-year-old man, he seems to be on track to give Mick Jagger a run for his money in stage presence and energy level. Nor has he lost any of his youthful opposition to big government and injustice. At one point during the show he exclaimed, "They [referring to the Bush administration] say we must fight violence with violence. I say we fight violence with education." And perhaps most importantly, his music boasts the stylistic muscle of someone who has certainly been around the block – and the world. This has made him, his music, and his message truly cross-cultural in its worldly appeal.

JamBase | Berkeley
Go See Live Music!

http://www.manuchao.net/

[Published on: 8/14/06]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!


You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!



 
 

Comments

mcarroll starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/15/2006 10:04AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

mcarroll

I was at the concert at the Fillmore in Denver August 3rd. It was one of the funnest shows I've ever been to. Never have a seen a wilder crowd. It was great to leave the venue and see every single person coming out absolutely drenched in sweat from head to toe.

AfroZep starstar Tue 8/15/2006 11:09PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

how can you have someone cover a story on an artist they've never even heard before. while i agree manu's show was great to see live- lollapalooza was his first appearance in chicago ever and an amazing show- having a writer for your website that didnt even know his music before the show shows the how amateur the jambase.com staff is. One of the most famous musicians on the planet and the story is covered by someone thats never even heard the music before. at least tyler liked the show. maybe this article will turn some people onto his music.

jz starstarstarstar Wed 8/16/2006 10:41AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

jz

spot-on review, tyler. i saw manu in san diego a day after the berkeley show and was floored for the first hour or so of the set. it was a predominantly mexican crowd, many having come north of the border for the show, and folks were going berserko. it was a cool cross-cultural experience, manu singing in spanish, me feeling like a foreigner in a new venue in a different city. but during the second half of the set -- and the four encores he pulled -- manu let every reggae-fied song lapse into the same ska-punk ending, one after another after another. the slow-to-fast dynamic was interesting at first, but got predictable by the end of the show. still, manu is a great frontman and his band completely smoked, esp the timbalero, who i believe was from manu's original band mano negra.

wsullivan starstarstarstar Wed 8/16/2006 09:15PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

The announcement of this tour had me more excited than seeing Radiohead this summer. I didn't know what to expect from him in the States. I kept telling everyone I was going to see Manu Chao and they kept saying, "Who?" but when I got there I was blown away. The energy from both the crowd and the band were neverending. I caught him twice in San Diego and Denver. He played pretty much the same show, and never did it get old. Just when you thought it was over, and even after seeing him once I still thought it was over many times in Denver, the band rocked out an old Mano Negra classic. I never felt more proud to be part of a musical experience in my life than at these shows. It was a beautiful vibe and goes to show that a music's message can always be more powerful than any brand behind it.

Latinagirl starstarstarstarstar Sat 8/19/2006 07:27PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I too was at the concert at the Fillmore and WOW!!!

I was at the front row the entire night and had to fight to keep my space. The people I met at the front were from all over the world. It was amazing to see a group of 6 people fly in from Argentina just to see the concert!!! I have been following Manu Chao's music for longer than I care to say :-) and have to say that it was one of the best nights of my life. Although I was not a huge fan of getting clobbered in a mosh-type setting, it was definitely electric and over the top.

I have to say that I was impressed at seeing how grassroots the band was during their performance. Their clothing choice SCREAMED "REBEL" all the way. It was fantastic to see that they hadn't gotten to full of themselves despite their success.

I have asked myself if I thought it was worth having severely bruised elbows and feet along with a 10 inch deep bruise across my midriff from being slammed into the bar...and each time that i see the cuts on my toe from the intense crowds who would stop at nothing to take my spot. YES IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!! And if he came again tomorrow I would fight just as tough so that I could watch a band whose political views and disgust for the system parallels my same belief system.

To those who do not get Manu Chao or feel that he should have "Performed" more variety...yada yada yada. Manu Chao uses his lyrics as a catalyst to scream out his beliefs. More than likely if you do not understand his multi-lingual lyrics and his desire to spread his sadness on a multi-national level...then you should probably have saved your money for the Rolling Stones.

Manu Chao is a modern day type Che Guevara who is using his music to send a message to the world. Everytime he plays his guitar it is his attempt at showing that music and not war should be a proponent for educating us that we "Should fight violence with education!"

Manu Chao....PURA VIDA!!!!

kareneli starstarstar Sun 8/20/2006 12:11PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I also was at the Berkeley show, I drove six hours from Reno to go see this show. I agree with the article up until the part where they start complaining about the numberous encores that seemed to have bored the writer. Of course, the writer was bored....they had no "real" appreciation for the music considering they had never even heard of Manu. But the ENTIRE show was amazing. My sister is a hard-core fan, and I, well am a fan, but nothing like her...She and I both agreed that was the best show we had ever been to......EVER!!

Vince starstarstarstar Sat 1/6/2007 03:56PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Vince

I was at the Brooklyn show (last of tour) and shot video, here's a clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoV-Dy1TRsg