Last Night: Maná At Toyota Center

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Maná Toyota Center April 4, 2012

The last time Maná visited Houston, they sold out Toyota Center two nights in a row. The world's premier rock en español band is on the second leg of the Drama Y Luz tour, in support of their latest album of the same name.

The group from the land of tequila y mariachi (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico) uses a combination of rock, reggae, and bachata to tear at their fan's heartstrings and incite revolutions of love and activism. Think Bob Marley crossed with The Rolling Stones singing en Español.

"Buenas noches, Houston! Nos la vamos a pasar de puta madre esta noche" proclaimed lead singer Fher Olvera. Loosely translated, he said, "Hey guys, we are gonna have fun tonght."

Key word: Loosely.

Of course, the show began almost an hour after the advertised 8 p.m. showtime, but that didn't bother the crowd too much. They were too busy saying hello to Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola in the front row, or taking photos with former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband Mark Kelly in the fifth row.

You would think that "celebrity" fans would much rather prefer to see the show up in a private suite, far away from us common folk. But I guess this is sort of a testament to Maná's appeal as a band of the people, making music for the young and old, rich and poor, black or brown or white.

The mood shifted when the soundman blasted The Beatles' "Revolution," then pumped up Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (da-da-da-DUM!). The iconic intros to each song are unmistakable, as is the opening guitar riff of the fan favorite "Oye Mi Amor" that immediately followed.

"How awesome that they began the show with THAT song!" exclaimed my friend Melissa. Good call, Mel. Most bands would save their biggest hit until the end. "Playing it early says they mean business," I thought.

This time around, the show was more straightforward, much less theatrical than the show last July. Not a huge difference, although last night's show felt more like a club date than an arena concert.

Fher is seemingly always "on," fully engaged with the audience and the music. The energy he radiates is absorbed and multiplied by the crowd, making each Maná show loud and stimulating.

The drummer (Alex "El Animal") and lead guitarist (Sergio) are equally as boisterous and amped, commanding their instruments to rock and wail with the finest of their abilities. The band finally slowED down a bit to play "Vuela Libre Paloma," a song that Fher wrote in memory of his mother who recently passed away after a fight with cancer.

After a journey through "Mariposa Traicionera," "Manda Una Señal" and "Latinoamerica," the time came for Alex's drum solo. If Alex came to town by himself, he would still probably sell out the show. He is that good.

With his drum set poised atop a revolving platform, he rose above the stage and punished the drum heads and cymbals like a maniac, pausing only to drink a cerveza and then thanked the crowd for its applause. I've seen him do this several times, and I still get goosebumps.

Next they invited a local guitarist named Marco Antonio to the stage (que onda, tocayo!). He won a contest for the honor to play with his favorite band, and boy did he take advantage. The song was "Me Vale", and the guitar solo he shared with Sergio was simply sensational. They shredded the shit out of those guitars! Well played, sirs.

Personal Bias: Como Mexico, no hay dos!

The Crowd: Attractive, Congressional, and Basketbally

Overheard In the Crowd: "I love this song!" (After the start of every song)

Random Notebook Dump:TIL that Gabby Giffords focused her Master's degree studies on Mexican-American relations, and that her husband Mark Kelly's head is much shinier in person than on TV. They were very nice to everyone around them, graciously taking photos with all who requested.

SET LIST Oye Mi Amor Lluvia Al Corazon Corazon Espinado El Dragon Vuela Libre Paloma Amor Clandestino El Verdadero Amor Perdona Mariposa Traicionera Manda Una Señal LatinoAmerica Clavado En Un Bar Me Vale Te Llore Un Rio Se Me Olvidó Otra Vez Bendita Tu Luz Te Solte La Rienda Si No Te Hubieras Ido Vivir Sin Aire En El Muelle De San Blas Rayando El Sol


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