Saturday, November 26
George R. Brown Convention Center
Packing the George R. Brown Convention Center, drawing international press from Mexico and Belize and scoring a Double Diamond presentation (for more than two million copies sold) from label Sony Discos -- not a bad night for a local group.
Of course, La Mafia ceased to be just a local group about eight years ago, when the Houston-based band hit the charts with its CD La Mafia 1986, embarked on a series of world tours and launched its own record label, Voltage Discos. But two Saturdays ago La Mafia was at home, ready and willing to give evidence of their ascension to the international pop scene to the 10,000 fans in attendance.
Following four opening acts, La Mafia took the stage at midnight. Hits like "Me Estoy Enamorando" and "Hazme Una Senal" made up the better part of the 90 minute set, augmented with a short medley of Mexican tunes from the band's cantina singing days. "Cada Vuelta de Esquina ," a quebradita dance number, and "Vida," a poetic ballad, showcased the six-man group's range. "Me Duele Estar Solo" was classic La Mafia -- easy, danceable and more truly pop than Tejano.
The brothers Gonzales (Oscar on vocals and Leonardo on guitar) and producer Mando Lichtenberger (on accordion, keyboard and gritos) are the band members most responsible for the group's appeal, which, if CD sales are any measure, is starting to look worldwide.
-- Olivia Torre
Saturday, November 26
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When guitar guru and slack posterboy J Mascis' Dinosaur Jr. released Where You Been last year, the press trumpets got blown hard. Where You Been was to be the commercial breakthrough that label Sire, if not Mascis, had been waiting for ever since Mascis' indie reputation had been cemented with Bug. Mascis went on tour opening for sonic mentor Neil Young and got his face plastered on the cover of Spin -- all the necessary precursors to the Big Break. But for better or worse, the breakthrough never broke.
This year Dino tried again with Without a Sound, and at least it spawned the semi-hit single "Feel the Pain" to keep the bean counters happy. But the way Mascis' show looked and sounded to me, he's found a comfortable musical plateau, and if it never gets any bigger than this, so damn what?
Unlike Dino's last tour, where drooping green flora covered the amplifiers in a typically passive attempt to turn what's essentially a guitar solo recital into a show, Saturday night's performance was unadorned -- just band and amps and very loud sound. Mascis played with hair in his face all night and covered the bases from old stuff to new, exchanging wrenched-out-of-tune guitars for fresh ones after every song. The plenty-full house at Numbers mostly stood watching a cadre of persistent body surfers in the pit or listening to Mascis' fluid squeals, which is really all you go to a Dino show to do in the first place. That's why I went, and I got what I came for.
-- Brad Tyer