Afro Cuban Allstars – The Gov, Friday 22ndMarch 2019
(Reviewed by John Glennie)
I had never head of this band but love the beats and intensity of Latin American music so was curious to see what they were like. Definitely NOT disappointed!
Embracing several generations and music styles, many of the band’s members of yesterday and today have become international music legends.
In an astonishing two-weeks in 1996, the group recorded “A toda Cuba le Gusta”, featuring nearly 60 performers including celebrated artists such as Compay Segundo, Omara Portuondo and legendary guitarist Ry Cooder. The recording of these sessions became the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Buena Vista Social Club.”
Today, there’s no slowing down the Afro-Cuban All Stars, still touring the globe with their 14 piece group of Cuban musicians and still led by original bandleader Juan De Marcos.
At their Gov gig the energy, both on- and off-stage, was electrifying. Juan told us that in 5 days they had next to no sleep as they had a sleepless flight from Germany to Perth then performed on the same day. They then came to Adelaide and entertained us while still very much sleep deprived. You would never have guessed though!
The band had the crowd dancing from the first note and it only increased as the night wore on. Having very limited Spanish, I will not pretend to know the details of the songs played in their nearly 2-hour performance. All I can say is that the energy was contagious! The setlist is at the end of this review for those die-hards (and Spanish speakers!).
When Juan introduced the amazing band – all of them incredible musicians, the last three introductions were saved his wife of 37 years and two daughters Gliceria and Laura (who was absolutely stupendous on saxophone, clarinet and backing vocals!). The lead singer, Emilio Suárez, has an amazing voice and you would never have picked his lack of sleep of the previous five days.
Half way through the gig, two dancers suddenly appeared on the floor immediately in front of the stage (where I was standing) and entertained the crowd through three songs with some incredible Latin dancing. He is a close friend of Juan – also Cuban but (I believe) living in Adelaide – and his Australian partner. Both were highly visible with him dressed in a red suit, with red hat and her in a flamenco-style red dress. Boy, could they dance!! It really added to an excellent show and, once they departed the floor, ensured that everyone else was up dancing.
They and the audience were having so much fun that they did not leave the stage to return for the customary encore. They stayed, bowed to the crowd, and after huge cheers asked “do you want another song?”. You can guess the answer, and we were treated to an extended version of Chango (with the crowd providing most of the chorus and “yay-yo’s”. A thoroughly memorable evening with amazing Latin dance music!
Now for the promised setlist:
Ella Y Yo
Lo Dicen Todas (Espantosa)
Laura en el Paraiso
Cada Vez Que To Veo
Son de Baloy
Homenaje a Puerto Rico