Saturday Night: Ana Gabriel & Marco Antonio Solis At Toyota Center

Ana Gabriel, Marco Antonio Solis Toyota Center August 20, 2011

Ana Gabriel is the unrivaled queen of Mexican music. Rancheras, mariachi, torch songs, ballads - she does them all with a cry in her voice that breaks your heart. So when Gabriel shared the bill with Marco Antonio Solis Saturday night, Aftermath fully expected to be taken on a roller-coaster of emotions, and we weren't disappointed. Gabriel's "Soy Como Soy" especially won us over - again.

As did her story about her first gig in Houston. "How many memories I have of Houston," she said in Spanish, before going on to discuss her time at local restaurant Las Casuelas. (It's closed now, but years ago was a favorite late-night haunt on Houston's north side.)

Gabriel sang with Casuelas' house band, which, unfortunately for her, was a cumbia band with a couple of salsa musicians thrown in. "You can imagine my songs with a little salsa beat," she said. We kept thinking how strange it all was.

Gabriel's set, which lasted almost an hour and a half, had plenty of variety, from pop to ballads, oldies and lots of audience favorites; almost every new song brought a roar of approval from the crowd. She was in fine form and if it hadn't been for an lazy lighting engineer and "I wanna be a rock star" sound engineer, her show would have been perfect.

Note to lighting engineers out there everywhere: Shining a bright light in the audience's face isn't a good idea. Shining a bright light over and over in the audience's face is really not a good idea. Note to sound engineers everywhere: If it's not a rock concert, you many not want to use rock-concert settings on your control panel. Just a thought.

The sound went completely to hell when Marco Antonio Solis took the stage. He's not a belter, so he sounded like "mumble, quiero, mumble, mumble, amor, mumble, yo, mumble, mumble." A complete wash-out for Aftermath, though the crowd didn't seem to mind much.

Two of the top Mexican artists on the scene today and they had their performances muddled by bad sound mixing. Ouch.

Personal Bias: I'm a sucker for Gabriel's ranchera tinged torch songs.

The Crowd: It was an older, tamer crowd, with cowboy hats dotting the audience. You haven't lived until you see a Mexican cowboy, with a hat, boots and giant-ass belt buckle sway his arms up in the air like a teenage girl at a Glee concert.

Overheard In the Crowd:

Man (spotting an African-American in the overwhelmingly Mexican audience): "You think he's lost?"

Woman (shrugs her shoulders): "Maybe he's Dominican."

Man (waits a beat): "Oh, then he's really lost."

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