Concert: Buena Vista Social Club

  • Concert: Buena Vista Social Club

1/1/15 (Thurs), Havana

There were several venues advertising shows with BVSC members, who seem to form a large but loose group of son/salsa musicians. These shows have boomed since my last visit 15 years ago, maybe a sign of the expanding tourist trade. Locals didn’t know much about it, so I asked the hotel, which recommended this one. I had imagined a small, smoky, dodgy club, and the location, a decidedly un-touristy and yet-to-be renovated part of the old city, felt appropriate. But the theater was actually quite new and more like a fancy nightclub, with a large proscenium stage and runway. Dinners and snacks were available along with drinks, all of which were served throughout the show by waitresses in retro short lacy skirts. 

The show was less a concert than a musical revue of salsa, son, bolero and more, complete with dancers (cute sexily dressed woman and tall skinny gay-looking black guy), chorus and an on-stage orchestra. There were around six singers of varying personalities, which felt like central casting as opposed to authentic musicians just there to play. Still, all of them were excellent, and a few were particularly animated, like the fat woman who came into the audience and waved her boobs and tush at me. The songs were insistently upbeat for the most part, including the ubiquitous Quizas Quizas Quizas, and audience members were dragged on stage for many dances (one guy near the stage was chosen three times – the performers need better coordination). It was fun but too much after a while, a bit too eager to please. While the musicians were all fine, I found the bands in Trinidad and Havana coffee shops and dance halls more natural and spontaneous. Who needs a packaged Cuba in Cuba?

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