More than 10 years after setting the pop world on fire with his solo debut, Proxima Estación: Esperanza, Manu Chao has finally given Miami a long overdue live performance, thanks to the Rhythm Foundation. The wait did not matter. At 50 years old, this man still gives the same energy to the crowd as his early days. As noted on Independent Ethos earlier this year (Manu Chao to make Miami debut in Sept.) this show arrived with high expectations. They were met.

The Bayside Amphitheater (currently known as the Klipsch Amphitheater) was filled from the seats, over the lawn and on back to the food stands. It was an amazing feat to fill up such a space when your last original full-length album (La Radiolina) came out four years prior. Despite receiving mixed reviews (mostly in comparison only to his earlier albums, as his music offers a unique blend of punk, island and Latin music). I found, at least found it fine and uncompromising. He has maintained that kinetic, high-speed world-music spirit since his solo debut, 1998’s Clandestino, after leaving his successful and pioneering Paris-based Latin pop-punk band Mano Negra behind.

With only a trio of musicians behind him (guitarist Madjid Fahem, bassist Jean Michel Gambit and drummer Phillipe Tebou [also former Mano Negra]), Chao was still able to do his music justice, last night at the open-air theater in downtown Miami. Often known for having as many as 15 musicians on stage, Chao’s new quartet, named La Ventura (after a song by Mano Negra), powered through the singer/guitarist’s career of well-regarded tunes. Gambit, a bruiser of a Frenchman with tattoos running the course of his arms, but with a large, soft belly, triggered samples with one hand and offered a range of his weird popping sounds with his voice that even a signature “meow” during “L’Hiver Est Là” (Check my video out below), as he kept a steady rhythm and often lead the crowd in clapping along to the music.

Fahem brought the dexterous bounce in the song’s signature guitar lines, bolstered by Tebou’s athletic drumming, whose style reminded me of the Police’s Steward Copeland. One can’t help but thing of the police in their heyday, bouncing on stage in their pop-punk manner, as La Ventura did the same at many points throughout their show. They also both share the unmistakable influence of reggae. Compounding the British ska/punk influence in Manu Chao’s music, is his voice and delivery, which sounds like good old nasally Joe Strummer in the Clash.

All are fine, fun influences that certainly can pull in a vast crowd, and they did, but Manu Chao is far from derivative and more a lover of music that blends in a mix of cultures, offering the perfect soundtrack for a the city of Miami. But also the crowd wanted to dance, and their songs never offered a shortage of energy. Just as soon as you thought they were exploring their slower side, Tebou would lead the track into double-time, beating out the rhythm like a machine gunner. Here are three tracks, which occurred early in the show, that I recorded back-to-back-to-back and captures the unrelenting energy of the group:

In fact, I believe this band were on a quest to wear everyone out. However, Miami proved long pressed for a Manu Chao appearance and they three back as much energy as he gave. Beyond the pit never running out of water to spray into the air, and even the appearance of a giant inflatable killer whale to join in the fray, one audience member executed the most perfect invasion of a performance I had ever seen in my 20+ years of attending rock shows. This young woman stormed the stage to first plant a kiss on Chao’s mouth as he sang, then startled the bassist by popping up on his right side for a hug. Finally, security woke up and began chasing her, as she scurried to the guitarist to practically jump on his back. Dodging the grabbing hands of another security guard, who only snatched air, she was able to partially remove the headphones from the drummer and kiss him on the right cheek. Security finally pulled her away to take her out via the back stage, but she slithered out of their grasp to sprint and  leap right off the stage, landing back in the pit from whence she emerged. The stunned and humiliated bouncer stared  into the sea of raving fans for a couple of minutes and soon left… probably to go back to sleep. Of course, throughout the stunt, the band powered through without seeming to miss a note (if anyone finds a video of it, let me know, and I’ll share it here!).

“L’Hiver Est Là” was the encore song and audience members were singing along as they filed out of the amphitheater after something like four or five encores, which included the finale of that song at least twice. At the end, Chao told the unmoving crowd: “Y ahora que, Miami? Que vas a hacer, Miami?” (translation: What now, Miami? What you gonna do?). The crowd never budged after every “ending”– even those standing at the far end of the field. Chao even came out when the house lights came up to meet those lingering at the front of the stage.

The night was always electric with energy. At the start of the show, rain meekly drizzled down, but Mother Nature failed to dampen the proceedings. Mr. Pauer stirred up the crowd for Chao. He’s a local guy from Venezuela, but has received global attention for his pioneering work in the world of Latin electronica. His warm-up mash-up mix featuring Latin pop songs mixed with classic rock and ethnic dance beats flowed from his mixer and laptop with infectious ease. People wanted to jump around and dance, and they were geared up by the time Chao appeared with his trio of backing musicians. At that point, the rain gave up, and it was on with an unrelenting live show that carried on for nearly two hours.

Manu Chao offered a great start for what will be a packed month of live shows in South Florida featuring stellar acts (September offering some good concerts in SoFla). In the meantime, La Ventura’s tour continues with a few more dates to go:

09/11 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade Music Park
09/13 – Chicago, IL @ Congress Theater
09/16 – Austin, TX @ Stubbs
09/18 – Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Just as I thought I was done hyping the shows coming to South Florida this September, I get an email from the the Rhythm Foundation (the same group hosting Bryan Ferry) announcing Manu Chao’s appearance that month (Sept. 9). Born and raised in Paris to Spanish parents, the world artist blends an array of styles (punk, Afro, Latin) for a sound all his own. The results are infectious and quite worth experiencing live:

But, it’s not all about spastic bouncing around. He has some nice atmospheric songs, too:

His website hasn’t noted any dates beyond Europe, but it certainly adds another interesting element to the major acts visiting South Florida very soon, and thankfully no overlapping shows… yet, which would make for a rare occurrence in this area of the US, but it did happen last year when Massive Attack and MGMT played the same date. All my adult friends went to see Massive Attack but I went with the kids to see MGMT.

Chao’s  show at Downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park Klipsh Amphitheater marks the ex-Mano Negra frontman’s debut Miami appearance. Tickets go on sale this Friday (June 17) and are general admission. The email from the Rhythm Foundation noted that you can get the tickets through Ticketmaster outlets or local indie stores like Sweat Records (Miami), BASE (Miami Beach) and Radio Active Records (Fort Lauderdale).

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

September in South Florida is beginning to look as good as last year’s October, or should I say: “Rocktober.” It’s still four months away, but I’ve already bought advance tickets for two acts below, and there is one I am hoping to turn into an interview, but we shall see…

First was news of Bryan Ferry appearing at the intimate Fillmore Theater in Miami Beach (Sept. 29). The last time I attended one of his concerts in South Florida was the mid-nineties, at the much larger Sunrise Theater in Broward County. Though his latest album Olympia (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on Amazon via this link) did little to move me, even if it included every member of his old band Roxy Music in some form, I’ll be there. His solo work in general has been a hit and miss affair, but this English glam-rock pioneer has always done justice to the early seventies Roxy Music tunes that I thinks stands up as some of his best work, yes, even better than the later-era Roxy Music.

That said, I’m looking forward to seeing how he pulls off “Virginia Plain” nowadays. So sue me, I’m stuck on the past glories of Bryan Ferry. Here’s Roxy Music, when they were a new pop band on the scene, circa 1972, promoting “Virginia Plain” with a lip-synced performance on the BBC’s “Top of the Pops” (legend has it their set up was too complex to hook up all the instrumentation in the TV studio, so they had to mime the song, and yes, there is Phil Manzanera on guitar and Brian Eno on organ):

Then I get a text from a friend recommending I get my Peter, Bjorn and John tickets for their appearance at the even more intimate Bardot, in Miami (Sept. 23). He said they were going fast. When I purchased them they were $25 and could be up to $30 now, if not sold out. I’ll admit, I got the tickets because my wife would not forgive this opportunity should I pass on it. I have only casually listened to their work, but over the course of six full-length albums, they have shown an interesting career, from their third album’s breakout hit “Young Folks” in 2006 to their surprisingly spare and at times dark follow-up Living Thing (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on Amazon via this link) and now comes the Swedish trio’s return to perky form, Gimme Some (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on Amazon via this link).  Here’s a video from a their new single on the new album, “Second Chance”:

But, speaking of dark: the reliably grim Swans are the capper for me (thanks to Sweat Record’s mailing list for the heads up!). The band I liken to the sound of the end of the world if it had melody, is only making it as far south as Respectable Street in West Palm Beach (Sept. 14) , but I will be there. I have been into this gloom and doom band, which stands head and shoulders above any Goth or Industrial band ever, in its own wall-busting genre,  since the early nineties.

I first stumbled across their music during my years at Florida International University’s radio station when it was on the AM dial and played grunge music before MTV (and nobody listened). But Swans was not grunge, industrial, Goth, dream pop, shoe gaze, noise pop or any of those scenes of that era. They were an entity unto themselves. They still are. The band broke up soon after I got into them in the mid-nineties, but 2010 saw the group’s baritoned singer and songwriter Michael Gira re-form the moniker for a new album and tour. I will now finally have a chance to see them live (I have never even bothered looking up live videos of them, as I have only heard of some of their legendary performances, and I prefer to be surprised). I’ll leave you with the rare video “Love of Life” that appeared on MTV’s “120 Minutes” once or twice: relentless drums, minor key piano, roaring guitars, creepy warped backward female voices, quickly cut disturbing images. Don’t call it Goth rock. This is music of grandiose doom…

P.S. Emile at Sweat Records told me Sir Richard Bishop will warm up the stage for Swans with his Flamenco-inspired noise. He is the co-founder of late-seventies-era experimental rock band Sun City Girls.

Another show of note in September includes another dark, re-formed nineties-era act, Berlin’s electro-hardcore act Atari Teenage Riot. They will play the night before Swans (Sept. 13— funny, that’s my deceased, Berlin-born father’s birthday) at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale.

I have heard the band’s new album already thanks to an advance copy from their PR company. Fans will be happy to know that the “hacktavist”- inspired album features Atari Teenage Riot as raucous and ear-splittingly aggro as ever. Is This Hyperreal? (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on Amazon via this link) is slated for US release on July 26. They have already recorded one of their new songs during a recent session for Daytrotter, which you can stream or download by clicking on their Daytrotter-drawn mugs above. I don’t know how these geezers can still do it, but just as their new album is true to their familiar sound of inhuman rhythms and screeching electronics, their live shows will probably be just as brain-melting. Here’s a taste of a recent live performance in HD:

Hopefully, September will see even more cool shows in South Florida. If so, I plan to up-date this post, so stay tuned and maybe bookmark this post.

Addendum: Manu Chao to make Miami debut Sept. 9

Addendum 2: Grand Central to host OMD and Cut/Copy, adding to more notable Sept. shows in S. Fla.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)