June 13, 2007
BY JASON SONGE
It's been a while since I've seen a crowd go so crazy for a performer. Last night at Tipitina's, the sold-out crowd danced, pogoed, clapped, and sang along to Manu Chao and his Radio Bemba Sound System. Chao is a Spanish-born multilingual artist who joins the beat of punk and the politics of The Clash with reggae, the Caribbean, and chant-heavy, straightforward rock.
Chao reminds me of Joe Strummer, just in the way he balances his politics with his music. He's very adamant about his politics, on and off stage, but he's such a powerful performer and talented musician that the politics never overshadow the music. They're more intertwined than anything. During a song introduction last night Chao said he didn't understand why terrorists and terrorism are fought with violence. He said that you fight terrorism with education, health care, etc.
From moment one the group, which consisted of a guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardist, and steel drummer, had their energy level ratcheted up to ten. They had their shirts off and were throwing up their arms up, imploring the crowd to sing and clap and wave their hands. This kind of positive energy went well with the soccer match-like chants of the songs--one guy in the audience was even holding up a soccer jersey. As I mentioned, the crowd gave it right back to them, but there's a difference between a good crowd and a great crowd. A great crowd knows the words, even if they're in French or Spanish, and there was a woman behind me singing along to every word. She was right in my ear, so that was annoying, but the annoyance was offset by her devotion. I've been that annoying person singing words into people's ears that don't know the words many times at concerts. By the way, I was standing in the back, so you can imagine how pumped the people in the front were. The heat was the only reason I wasn't closer to the front. An interesting story from someone who helped them load in: the group requested no air conditioning, from when they loaded in through to the concert. And--the kickers--there's no air conditioning in their tour bus and they don't wear deodorant, juding by their ripeness. Maybe you just get used to the smell?
I really enjoyed the music. One second it was on a drunk and lazy reggae loop, and then BAM!--right into that cutting punk beat. It was a fun and upbeat show. It would have been hard to not move around to the music.
1. I didn't need to know what the lyrics meant.
2. The show lasted at least two hours(when I left) and four or five encores. Suckers have ENDURANCE.