Juanes: LOUD & Unplugged Tour Bayou Music Center June 8, 2013
Unplugged: to perform with acoustic rather than electronically amplified instruments. That is what Juanes' current tour is supposed to be. And when you think about it, taking a guitar player's axe away should severely diminish his or her effectiveness.
But Juanes is not your ordinary guitar player. This Colombian rock star has enough talent, charisma and energy to power and carry any stage he sets foot upon, seemingly with his heart alone. Plus it helps that he is, as one of my Twitter followers puts it, a "drop-dead sexy beast of a man."
Indeed, his current show may have been unplugged, but the energy at Bayou Music Center Saturday night was as strong and loud as I've ever experienced at a Rock En Español show. In fact, I would argue that this concert was more enjoyable than his show at Toyota Center two years ago. That show seemed like just another tour stop. Saturday night was magical.
The crowd applauded as his ten-piece band and two backup singers took the dimly lit stage, then absolutely roared when the main attraction appeared, guitar in hand. Appropriately, the show began with the title track from Juanes' 2002 debut Fijate Bien. Right away, the band provided the crowd with lively soundtrack that kept them on their feet dancing and singing for most of the show.
"Arriba Houston!" shouted Juanes, as he dove right into "La Paga." There wasn't much banter or pauses between each selection, which was a pleasant surprise. The transitions were fluid, like a mixtape created by a talented DJ, only live. He then hit us with an inspired cover of Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved." Not everyone can get away with covering Mr. Marley, but Juanes definitely has the heart and love to do Bob justice.
Soon after followed "La Camisa Negra," which was one of my mom's favorite songs due to its humorous use of metaphors and wordplay ("Lo que ayer me supo a gloria, hoy me sabe a pura... Miercoles por la tarde..."). Juanes' wit, humor, and carefully chosen words has always been a strong point for the singer-songwriter.
After a few other hits, he teamed up with the Puerto Rican singer Raquel Sofia for "Fotografía." Miss Sofia's voice was strong and confident, and her smile was stunning. She opened the night's show with a short set of guitar lead tracks that reminded us a bit of Lauryn Hill with a tropical vibe added. She certainly has a bright future ahead of her.
The salsa classic "Rebelion" by late, great Colombian superstar Joe Arroyo followed. This song is a staple in ever salsa band's repertoire, known for its ability to pump up the energy levels of any event. Juanes and his band converted the track into what can only be called "salsa-rock," a blend of traditional salsa and modern rock. This was certainly one of the highlights of the evening.
"Esta noche es muy una muy especial," he told the audience, (translated, it means "this is a very special night." It turns out that the singer's three children -- Luna, Paloma, and Dante -- were in attendance. "If you are ever feeling sad or depressed, turn to your family, just as I do with mine," he said. "Together we can overcome any obstacle."
He blew his kids a kiss, and dedicated the song "Azul Sabina" to them. Very touching.
Then Juanes continued to rock and roll, and we continued to dance and sing. He left us with the following quote:
"Quizas no nos conocemos muy bien, pero el milagro de conectar nuestros corazones a traves de la musica es also magico, lindo, y maravilloso!"
("We may not know each other very well, but the miracle that we can connect our hearts through music is something magical, lovely, and marvelous!")
The show may have been unplugged, but I left the show more connected than ever.
Personal Bias: I have a special place in my heart for "unplugged" shows.
The Crowd: Beautiful latinos and latinas from all over the Americas.
Overheard In the Crowd: The constant, off-key singing (shouting) of the lady sitting behind me. It almost ruined the show for me.
Random Notebook Dump: I saw the livestream of Juanes' ACL Live performance on Tuesday of last week. Houston's show was way better.