****** (6 out of 6 stars); March 10 at Store Vega
As something of a wild card in Vega’s usual lineup, Los Van Van’s concert Saturday night was clearly a show of a different sort. The 14-piece Cuban orchestra stepped onto the stage amidst shrieks and chants of excitement from a partisan crowd that had turned up with the very specific intention of dancing the night away – and dance they did.
Naturally, a group of the size and status of Los Van Van always have plenty of expectations to live up to from the word go. Last night’s show saw Los Van Van outdo themselves. The merry-making Cubans were nothing short of perfect and the crowd loved them.
Los Van Van didn’t hold themselves back, as they served up a canny blend of songs hailing predominantly from their latest album, La Maquinaria. Their dance-friendly, heavily-instrumented fusion of irresistible songo (a mixture of Cuban and Caribbean rhythms) worked wonders on the crowd, who were more energetic and more impassioned than any other I have seen at Vega.
This was one of those rare concerts in which everyone, on and off stage, seemed to be well and truly enjoying themselves from start to finish.
This sense of collectiveness was most evident at moments during tracks like the distinct ‘Me Mantengo’, which was brought on towards the end of the show and summed up everything that was good and great about the night.
As a 40-year-old orchestra, Los Van Van played with the mastery and perfection of experienced musicians doing what they do best, yet one has to give credit to their newer, younger band members who seem to have added even more liveliness to their show and who seem to blend seamlessly in with the rest of the troupe.
It is rare to see so much chemistry between the members of a band, all the more so in one that contains 14 different people and rarer still to be part of an audience that doesn’t hold back one bit when it comes to their enjoyment of the show. Credit due where credit is due: Vega deserve a pat on the back for booking one of the most talented music ensembles this reviewer has had the pleasure of