In terms of mainstream recognition, Colombian pop singer Carlos Vives isn’t in the realm of the crossover-ready Juanes.
Of course, the mainstream can be over-rated, as the traditionally minded Vives demonstrated in a generous 2-plus hours on Friday at Amway Center. Powered by accordion and propulsive percussion, Vives and his 13-piece band generated an admirably festive vibe, especially since the crowd wasn’t big enough to require opening the arena’s upper deck.
In a refreshing twist on arena clichés, the singer declined to start things with a bang. Instead of explosions, the initial 10 minutes featured a video of the singer swimming ashore in Santa Marta, Colombia, a destination sub-title that inspired the evening’s first ovation.
The film unfolded more like a PBS documentary, an uncharacteristically gentle introduction that also fit nicely with the beautiful, occasionally fragile, songs. Flutes and congas dominated in an opening foray that unfolded against a backdrop of muted spotlights that resembled a sunset.
Although the sound mix was a tad harsh in the early going, it was much better than the roar typically produced by rock bands in the arena. Like the big ensemble of Mexican ranchera king Vicente Fernández, who headlined the inaugural concert act at the Amway Center in 2010, the blend was remarkably precise.
Addressing the crowd in English and (mostly) Spanish, Vives swayed along to songs such as “Como Le Gusta A Tu Cuerpo,” one of many sing-alongs flavored by the ever-present accordion. That easy stage presence isn’t surprising, since Vives became a star in Colombia as a telenovela actor in the early 1980s.
Musically, he has reinvented himself at several points in a long career. After releasing poorly received pop-oriented albums in the 1980s, Vives mixed traditional Vallenato style with rock and pop elements on “Clásicos de la Provincia,” a 1993 comeback album that has become a classic.
That was the first in a string of releases that include the Grammy-winning “Déjame Entrar” (2001) and the newly released “Corazón Profundo.” Although there’s still a pop influence, it’s mostly submerged beneath the traditional sounds.
The new album is only Vives’ second in the past decade, not a pace that leads to world domination.
No worries. His music is still captivating for anyone who finds it.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun