Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Manu Chao: Live in Rivas, Madrid

With each "Hasta siempre Rivas!!" (Rivas being the town in the suburbs of Madrid where he played), Manu Chao and his merry band left the stage followed by the shouts and howls of the thousands in attendance. Four times they returned, stretching out a concert that I thought would be a little over an hour into a three hour marathon of amazing music: the funky sounds of when cultures intertwine, borders drop, and people come together. When we finally left the show, in the midst of a surprising May cold snap that had us shivering in the Spanish night, we were exhausted: legs cramping, vocal cords shattered, shoulders hurting from holding off the hordes. But even now I can still hear Manu shouting "Oy yo yo yoooo!", imploring us to keep up with his fierce energy.

Manu for me was a top two show I had to see, right up there with the indomitable Outkast. Manu's music was a big reason for me wanting to learn Spanish and, in some ways, for moving to Spain. Although he still hasn't made quite the same name for himself in the US, Manu's kaleidoscopic mix of different sounds have made him a legend in Latin American and many European countries.

After enjoying a few beers at the feria of Rivas before the show with my girlfriend and great buddy Tobes, we joined the masses to walk the quick jaunt to the gigantic auditorium of Rivas, a Spanish white elephant if there ever was one. What happened the next three hours is still a blur: a beautiful mix of different styles, influences, political messages, waved Western Saharan flags, and Manu. Songs took on lives of their own; the most obscure song would suddenly turn into a mammoth rallying call for the crowd to mosh with a passion. The only breaks Manu, his sound effect guy (another living legend), drummer, and guitar player took were the encore breaks, slight eyes of the storms of music and dancing. Jumping around from his monumental solo catalog and his work with Mano Negra, there is no song that I wish he had played but at the same time no song sounded exactly as I had heard it the hundreds of times before. The songs, rather, become notes in a amazing symphony that Manu was playing: each had its time to shine yet never became more important than the composition as a whole. The three hour symphony made us sing, dance, think, yell, and was a true musical experience-the closest thing this atheist will get to going to church-there with a couple thousand other music lovers, jamming at the alter of Manu.

For a taste of the show, check out Manu's live album from 2009, Baionarena! 

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