June 23, 2007
An energetic and from-the-heart Cuban rumbón broke out Saturday night as a delirious and receptive crowd welcomed one of the island's grandest and most innovative musicians ever at the James L. Knight Center.
As a result the man responsible for keeping close to 5000 people on their feet most of the evening might have no problems feeling right at home. Singer/bandleader Issac Delgado, whose percussive-driven, Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazzy riffs have captivated audiences all over Europe and Latin America for two decades, went for broke in his first performance in Miami since deciding to leave Cuba seven months ago. He displayed a smooth yet controlled way of delivering his music, and received ample assistance from a well-structured and blistering orchestra.
The audience seemed to be made up of mostly recent arrivals who obviously know and appreciate Delgado's bevvy of songs; plenty sang along and danced wildly in the aisles ignoring constant pleas from ushers. Delgado played right into the crowd's hands with a smooth rendition of "Necesito Una Amiga" ('"I Need A Girlfriend") and long version of "Que Te Pasa Loco, Que Pasa Loco" ("What's Wrong with You Crazy Man, What's Going on Crazy Man").
His rapport with the audience came across as genuine and heartfelt, as if he was at the forefront of a house party with thousands of neighbors being his guests. He constantly encouraged them to get involved singing along and with "una clave" (a clap of the hands).
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Delgado made his music the focal point and strayed away from anything with a political tone. Instead he spent his energy on transforming the venue into a "little piece of Havana" as he swayed with the masses during a final encore that included several of his biggest hits in Cuba including "La Vida es un Carnaval" ("Life is a Carnival") and "Malecón."
Despite lasting over two hours Delgado seemed content with leaving most of the new material from his recently released album, En Primera Plana, out of the performance. One was "Cemento, Ladrillo y Arena" ("Cement, Brick and Sand") which featured the participation of Cuban bass maestro Cachao, pianist Osmany Paredes, and Delgado's old NG La Banda pal, Wicly Nogueras, on congas.
Unfortunately Delgado took a backseat during the song and let the gathering of stars carry it out with prolonged solos while the trio improvised back and forth in extending the unique son/chachacha.
He also spent a significant amount of time during the opening stages of the concert lauding his orchestra and again stepping aside as individual members took turns at delivering solos.
Though their sound came through tightly and clear as water Delgado failed at creating more of a musical interchange with them. Delgado also shared the stage with a number of local Cuban singers including Amaury Guiterrez, Luis Bofill, and Malena Burke. At this point the show seem to take a downward spiral despite beautiful a cappella boleros and a mini tribute to Beny Moré with Bofill.
But at the end it did little to disrupt the old-style Cuban rumbón. -- Fernando Ruano Jr.
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Personal Bias: Considering all the publicity that followed his arrival in the states I was hoping for more of a defining moment to cap off his first performance in Miami - since he left Cuba - but it never materialized. Sharing the stage with a few local Cuban musicians was nice but its an old and tired act. For a singer of his status the show could have had more of an international flavor.
Random Detail: The majority of the crowd consisted of ‘new’ generation Cubans as evidenced by their ability to sing along to almost every song while they all virtually dance the same way. It was hair-raising to see the true emotion exchanged between the singer and his supporters.
By the way: Delgado is backed by perhaps one of the most well-balanced and tight-sounding bands I’ve ever heard. Those guys didn’t skip a beat!