REVIEW: Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club at ACL Live
- Submitted by: manso
- Editorial Articles
- 09 / 02 / 2011
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club performed at the ACL Live Moody Theater, Friday night. Opening up for the critically-acclaimed Latin ensemble was local artist Suzanna Choffel.By: Eli Watson. Aug 31, 2011
Suzanna Choffel is a standout artist coming out of Austin. Dazzling to all of the senses, Choffel is such an enticing front lady. Graceful, seductive and charismatic, Choffel is a breath of fresh air to the world of bluesy, jazz pop.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club is both musically and historically significant. Due to the success of their album, Buena Vista Social Club (named after the institution the musicians used to perform at in Havana, Cuba), and the Wim Wenders' documentary of the same name, the group’s impact in Latin and Cuban music have not gone unnoticed. Those who still carry on the message and sound of Buena Vista Social Club do so with outstanding vigor; every member displays such an incredible amount of showmanship. Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club remains true to the past, and it was an absolute honor seeing the 12-piece ensemble knocking everybody off of their feet.
Starting off the night was Suzanna Choffel, whose performance was beautifully intimate. Minimal, powerful and enjoyably mysterious, Choffel and her group filled the whole venue with Latin-tinged jazz-pop. I was speechless from beginning to end, their delightfully cacophonic “Archer” catching my attention most. Choffel and her group ended their set early but delivered in such a way that the occupants attending the show were left satisfied.
Now was the moment we had all been waiting for: Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. I honestly had no idea of what to expect. Audience members around me were smiling and clapping, some of them already singing lyrics to songs. The lights then exploded on the stage as the members of the ensemble made their way to their instruments.
Although those part of the club’s humble beginnings may no longer be with us, to see new musicians take up the baton is absolutely commendable.
Jesus Ramos, the group’s conductor and trombonist, counted the group off who immediately went right into the music. Laud (a traditional Cuban instrument) player Barbarito Torres is a monster. Actually, before you continue reading on, do yourself a favor and just look up a video of him soloing; you will hopefully thank me, that is if your ears haven’t exploded by the beautiful destruction Torres causes with his trusty laud.
As the band set the mood with the tango-friendly “El Rincon Caliente,” Ramos and vocalist Idania Valdes began to dance, their moves so natural and organic that you would think the sensual pair should be the next contenders on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Which reminds me, Valdes is the epitome of sensual; move over Beyonce, and say hello to Idania Valdes. Besides having an amazing voice, Valdes has the ability to move her body in such an elegant and provocative manner that the ladies who attended the show definitely learned a thing or two.
Seeing Ramos and Valdes getting their groove on encouraged members in the audience to do the same; as soon as the group kicked into “Toma Chocolate,” everybody in the audience was dancing and clapping.
Going into an unlikely, yet intriguing combination of “As Time Goes By” and “Beethoven’s Fifth,” pianist Rolando Luna did not hesitate to show his skill. Blending the technicalities of classical, the spontaneity of jazz and the rhythmic patterns of Latin, Luna became something of maniacal genius. Remember the episode The Cat Concerto from Tom and Jerry where Tom is an amazing pianist, performing his piece as if it were second nature? Well, that was Luna, and luckily there were no distractions present, allowing the talented madman to play off-time, syncopated rhythms that had everybody going wild.
Halfway through the set, the lovely Omara Portuondo came out. Sultry, smooth and sexy ,Portuondo stole the show with her charisma. Seriously, Portuondo is a hot momma, and for being 80 years old, this lady could have won over the hearts of every man in attendance.
Taking a break from tearing up the dance floor, Portuondo went into “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas.” “We are so glad to be with you,” said Portuondo with a bright, wide smile on her face. The fans wanted more of Portuondo, and they definitely got it.
Going into “El Cuatro De Tula,” the ensemble showed that they are not only masters at their craft of being skilled musicians, but in creating some pretty hilarious theatrics too. Grabbing his laud Torres put the instrument behind his back and played a solo that was otherworldly. The audience went into an uproar of laughter as Torres made playing the laud look like child’s play. I was anticipating the moment when Torres would put the laud between his legs or play with his teeth.
Ending with “Candela,” Ramos demanded full power from the band as horns, keys, laud and everything else transformed into a large wall of sound, hitting everybody in its path with a pleasingly resonated delivery. Walking off of the stage, the band smiled, waved and blew kisses at the crowd; Portuondo was the last to leave, her energy magical and powerful as people continued to clap and cheer.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club is something else; they’re not just a band, but a piece of history. What started off as a members club in Havana, Cuba has since then become a worldwide phenomenon, and although those part of the club’s humble beginnings may no longer be with us, to see new musicians take up the baton is absolutely commendable.
This performance taught me many things, but the most important one is this: the language of music is a powerful thing that can bring so many people together. And even when you may not understand the lyrics or the message being conveyed, all you have to do is dance, because music and the body were made for each other.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club will continue to impact people across the world, and considering that Portuondo can move her hips like there is no tomorrow, I think it is safe to say that this ensemble will continue to have us moving and grooving, for many years to come.