Carlos Vives at Toyota Center, 7/28/2013

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Carlos Vives Toyota Center July 28, 2013

The Republic of Colombia is a South American nation known for its beautiful people, delicious food, and festive music. On the one hand, you have cumbia, an especially wonderful and eternally danceable music that has evolved and grown throughout the Americas and into the United States. The other genre that originated in Colombia is vallenato, which is considerably more folky and pure, danced with a sort of gallop, somewhere between slowed-down merengue and sped-up bachata.

Carlos Vives is one of vallenato's greatest stars. The soap opera actor-turned-musician is credited with placing vallenato onto the international stage, sharing the culture and traditions of his home country with the world. His long career has seen many international hits and collaborations with some of Latin music's most popular artists.

Vives' current tour is called "Como Le Gusta a Mi Pueblo," which translates into "That's How My People Like It." The name is fitting for the 51-year-old (holy moly, this guy looks great for his age!). His last big success was 2001's Dejame Entrar album which won him a Grammy. After such a long hiatus, an artist might be tempted to reinvent himself with newer, flashier looks and sound. But Vives stays true to his fans on Corazón Profundo, which was released earlier this year.

The concert began with a video intro for Vives. It showed him swimming in the ocean, then following a group of kids deeps into the lush jungle, ending by kneeling in front of a shaman, who provided him with the words of wisdom, "the spirit of the land will always be with you." That led into the first song of the night, "Dejame Entrar (Let Me In)."

The crowd, after waiting almost an hour after the scheduled start time, was more than ready to join Vives on this journey. Almost immediately, the fans were on their feet, singing and dancing, smiling and hugging each other. Everything, from the musicians to the lighting to Vives' energetic gestures, seemed perfect, as if we were all in one long music video. The new song "Como Le Gusta a Tu Cuerpo" certainly added to the festive atmosphere.

Indeed, the show was a nonstop pachanga, one of the best dance parties that I've ever seen in Houston. Every hit song that Vives unleashed was met with louder and louder cheers of appreciation. My favorite song is "Carito," which is half sung in English, and includes perhaps the most beautiful accordion/flute instrumental that has ever been recorded.

Of course, the audience was treated to "Fruta Fresca" and "La Tierra Del Olvido" before the night was over. Vives' new single "Volvi a Nacer" is also superbly beautiful, and includes the line "Quiero casarme contigo, quedarme a tu lado, ser el bendecido por tu amor" (I want to marry you, stay by your side, and be the one blessed with your love).

Music, love, and love of music... those are the things I cherish the most. Thank you Carlos, for the reminder.

Personal Bias: I remember dancing to Carlos Vives in college with my crew from the Student Organization of Latinos at the University of Saint Thomas. I miss those days!

The Crowd: Beautiful Latinos and Latinas from all over, but mostly from Colombia. Walter Suhr of Mango Punch was in the front row having a blast!

Overheard In the Crowd: "Carlos! Quitate la ropa!" (Take off your clothes!)

Random Notebook Dump: I love my job. After a long weekend of concerts, events, and parties, this show was a perfect ending to a fun but stressful few days. That I was able to share the experience with a new friend makes it that much more amazing. Certainly one of the best concerts I've attended and/or worked all year.

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