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Concert Report - 2004 - "The Boys are Back in Town"
by Michelle White
La Charanga Habanera in Gothenburg, Sweden
It's almost been exactly one year since I saw La Charanga Habanera for the first time in March 2003. Once you've seen them live, you find yourself going through withdrawal if you don't get a regular dose. So this year I took the opportunity to get a double dose seeing them twice in the same week: first in the small jazz club Nefertiti in Gothenburg and then in a larger concert venue in Stockholm.
As I have discovered previously, each concert has a unique character and it's really worth seeing the same group more than one if you have the opportunity. Nefertiti is a very small venue with a low stage that barely fits the entire band. This allows for a feeling of greater intimacy with the band, but also limits the Charangueros in their ability to perform some of the more acrobatic moves.
Up close and personal with the Charangueros
But even on this small stage they were able to live up to the fans' expectations and put on a very hot, sexy show.
There's always room for tembleque
They seem to have some sixth sense about where everything is on stage, so they were able to do their choreography making full use of the little space available without crashing into each other or tripping over the microphone cords.
Aned and Noel
Even before the show started you could see there were going to be some changes because they now have electric drums set up next to Yulién's timbales. The concert started with Soy Cubano, Soy Popular followed by Muevete. But the third song was an 'estreno' from the new CD we've all been hearing gossip about: Charanga Suave, rumored to be a CD of ballads. The song was Por Tu Amor and it was not a ballad but a very catchy, danceable sort of pop-ish/salsa-ish song that you find yourself humming the next day. The mambos really stick with you.
Helder's tumbaos also give it a bit of a timba feel. It was very popular with the audience, and as David said "Charanga Suave, pero no es tan suave". The CD contains ballads and dance songs and will be available on the Cancio label later this year. Hardcore timberos will have to wait until the fall for more timba from La Habanera.
Eblis, David and Noel
Another highlight of the show was the new Latin Jazz number featuring Helder, Osmani, Junio, Randolph, Orlando, Lázaro and Yulién. Here we saw the new electric drums come in. It was fantastic and a nice addition to the show.
Latin jazz in Stockholm - note Yulién on drums
Other songs included Mambo # Cuba where they segued into boleros and then back into mambo, Chan Chan which they played by request, Timba con Moña, Somos Los Cubanos, Otra Mujer and Ella Es Como Es. Vuelve Junto A Mi was the only ballad they performed.
Vuelve Junto A Mi
During Vuelve Junto A Mi, Lázaro Mengual switched to synth for the 'electric guitar' solo. In fact Lázaro was everywhere. He also took over timbales when Yulién was participating in the choreography.
Lázaro's 'guitar solo'
Of course it was over all too soon, but we got Nube Pasajera as the encore. Fortunately I still had the Stockholm concert to look forward to. It was held on Valentine's Day. And who better to spend Valentine's Day with than the Charangueros? In honor of the day they sang both Vuelve Junto A Mi and Entra En Mi Vida. The audience sang along on the chorus to Entra En Mi Vida.
Entra En Mi Vida
This venue had a much larger stage which allowed for Noel to do his midair flip into the splits move. The Stockholm concert was longer than the Gothenburg concert and included many of the same songs and then a few more such as Señora, Abusadora and the Pelicula one that I don't remember the full name of.
Leonid and David sing: "Señora"
Por Tu Amor and the Latin Jazz number also being very well received in Stockholm. One new piece of information was that pianist Helder Rojas is the composer of the Latin Jazz song. Very impressive.
Helder's jazz solo
Also from Charanga Suave they sang a song I don't know the name of, but you'll recognize the chorus "Mami, si tú me lo das/ yo te lo daré/ay que rico será/Lo que vamo'acer", which the audience enjoyed and during which Orlando performed his dance on the congas much to the delight of the ladies. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of it so you'll just have to see it at the show.
Stockholm concerts are known for the large number of ladies who like to join the band on stage and despelotearse. But this year there's a new twist. A 'papiriki coro' has been added to El Boni: "Pa' que tú bailas con el papiriki/tienes que soltar el guanikiki".
Bailadora with cash in hand
The ladies who wanted to dance with Eblis had to tuck some money into his waistband. No money, no dance. I think he must have earned a few hundred crowns extra that night. They had some other great coros depending on the circumstances, but I'll leave these to be a surprise for those of you who are going to see the show. Ladies, remember to have some money handy, the Charangueros are back in town!