Gipsy Kings March 15, 2008
By Glen Creason
I can’t recall a more enthusiastic crowd or more passionate response to music in the Performing Arts Center this season than that of the packed house towards the Gipsy Kings on Saturday night. A beautiful group it was; that audience who stayed on their feet dancing for much of the show. Despite the rather monolithic onslaught of music, one pounding anthem after another, neither side seemed to tire. This is exciting music, a good-time soundscape that is richly colorful but no heavier than one tomato gazpacho. The ten men on stage strike a hypnotic groove, filled with strumming guitars and double percussion laid up on a bass foundation that rumbles right through mere flesh and blood. This is rumba catalana, the popular hybrid of traditional flamenco.
“Rumba Tec,” “La Tounga,” “Hacemos Amor” lead off in the Kings formula, just putting it into about second gear where they paused before putting the hammer down. “Avanssa” just put you around the campfire at the caravan, gulping heavy red wine and smoking gauloises while the raven tressed ladies whirl into the night. Certainly the best number in the first half was the fiery “Lleva Me” featuring another smoky vocal by Nicholas Reyes that began like a pop song and wandered deep into flamenco territory. The best moments are always when Tonino Baliardo stands stage center and takes his guitar to task at the head of five other such instruments with passion and control that is inspiring. Such was the case in “Inspiration” that was the natural follow up to the pop sound and introduction to the wailing flamenco vocal in “Un Amor” that had many of the lovelies swaying in ecstasy. “Tristessa” took the Gipsy sound into overdrive and by the time the first half closed with “Jobi Joba” there was only one man sitting in the hall. After intermission the show alternated between plaintive flamenco ballads and those driving instrumental forces of Gipsy King nature. The sentimental ones were “Sol Y Una,” “Mi Corazon” and the curtain raising “Camargue” that focused on the vocals of Nicolas, Canut and Andre Reyes. The rest was full-out Romany rocking, especially “Si Tu Mequires,” the quite tasty “La Dona,” “Pueblos” and “Pena Penita” that brought the crowd up for good. They stayed and danced through a rollicking ride with “Sabroso” filled with the band showing off their best licks in extended, exhausting jams. The huge bass of Bernard Paganotti creates a sturdy platform for the guitars and the group is blessed with two outstanding percussionists in the inexhaustible Jorge Trasante on drums and Rodolfo Pacheco on congas. With ten men wailing as one, the crowd joined to form a unified mass of gyrating, Gipsy fever. The wildly popular “Volare” followed with an entire hall standing, singing and clapping in rhythm in an amazing display of audience participation. Finally there was the totally rip-snorting finale of “Bamboleo” that seemed to last forever, and gave us one last gaze at the many gyrating Gipsy-loving beauties who proudly showed their moves and went home excited and happy, singing “bamboleo, bamboleo porque mi vida yo la prefiero vivir asi”