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Carlos Varela
I was feeling kind of skeptical walking to Carlos Varela's concert at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts Saturday night.

His time had really been the '90s, I was thinking, when he wrote Como los peces and all those songs.  

Who would his music still speak to in Miami? He seemed a little too comfortable in his second generation elder troubadour status in Havana. Even if his latest album, No es el fin (title track from the '90s, actually), was more powerful than the vagaries of Siete and Nubes and the other music he made in the early 2000s, I wasn't sure how relevant Varela could still be.

Still intensely relevant, it turned out, at least to Cubans. Anyone else might not care. But anyone might have been moved by the way that an artist's music can speak so powerfully to and for people's deepest longings.

Right up to just before Varela's concert started, the theater looked far short of the sellout promoters had announced. But when the lights finally went down a little after 9 p.m., the whole place suddenly seemed full. Not only full, but exploding with energy that seemed to light up the hall as the lights went dark.

One of the most moving aspects of the concert was the way the audience rose up, waved, screamed, sang and sang along, called out to Carlos, an essential part of the show. I don't know when I've ever seen a crowd so live and so involved.

Varela opened with Colgando del Cielo (Hanging from Heaven), and though it's not one of his best known, the crowd seemed to know every word. Only one song came from his new album: Telon de Fondo (Backdrop, though there's no good translation for a phrase that means the rear curtain of a theater.

No promoting the new album for this crowd, Varela sang his beloved anthems: Robinson (where Robinson Crusoe is a metaphor for the isolation of Cuba); Como los Peces (Cuba weeps black tears for its sons lost at sea, silently, ``like the fishes''); La politica no cabe en la azucarera (Politics Doesn't Fit in the Sugar Bowl); Foto de familia (Family Photo, about the separation of families).

Audience members' ages ranged from 20 to 60-something, mostly in the 30- to 40-ish middle. There were people who had left Cuba as adults, others who grew up here.

Varela doesn't usually show much emotion in public or in concert, but he seemed visibly moved Saturday night. There was a moment when I could have sworn his eyes were glistening. I turned around and realized why: The audience was standing and singing, all the way up to the ceiling.


Source: the Miami Herald

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