There was controversy in the surroundings. A hundred people, Cuban flag at the ready, protested in front of the Wizink. The object of his anger: Silvio Rodríguez. The singer-songwriter, a confessed communist, has had a long and prolific musical life in which he has been related to the Cuban elites, those whom many compatriots blame for their situation.
But, let’s go to music. Silvio started with ‘Tonada para dos poemas de Rubén Martínez Villena’ a beautiful ballad that, you can tell, was made with love. Behind sunglasses and under a cap that read “Apprentice”, the Cuban phenomenon seemed sheltered, abstracted from the world and controversy to fill with music.
With the audience still cold, he debuted one of his latest creations: ‘America’. In his line, he cries out with a certain sadness and resignation against the giant of the North in a museum song. Flute and guitars exchange melodies on a trotting rhythm and the double bass shines, pushing everything. The lyrics have some lines that seem forced, but it works.
It is noteworthy that he dares to bring an instrument like the double bass, so acoustic, to a room of this size. The advantage it offers, if achieved, is that the range of dynamics available is expanded (passages can be played with less volume than if there is an electric bass). On the other hand, one takes the risk of falling short and not filling such a large site with sound … The line is fine but the risk is worth it.
‘Viene la cosa’, from his latest work, benefited from the participation of a percussionist who did not play much during the concert, something difficult to understand. ‘Escaramujo’ drew applause with its slow steps and pungent rhymes. Listening to it with closed eyes, you can sense the growth of the song since it was an embryo with lyrics and chords. “A good song has to be good with guitar and voice, the rest is secondary,” someone told me. This is it.
The first big moment was ‘Te amaré’, a ballad beauty that, naked, works wonderfully with piano and guitar. The lyrics, simple and to the point, have what great love songs have: it puts the heart on the table and opens it in the channel. The song ends and, without a pause, ‘Oil of a woman with a hat’ starts. Slower than the original, the version was a fantastic example of what a revisited song can change. The epic and very intense acoustic guitar lowering on the album disappears and we barely notice it on the bass and the drum cymbal reinforcement. With more space, it is so well thought out that all instruments shine without doing almost anything.
In ‘La Maza’, general suspense for the public. The band starts at a moderate speed, a rhythm with a clear Mexican aroma but has to accelerate when the excited customers start clapping their hands at forced marches, well above the original tempo. The song ends closer to a verbena crossfire than to the intimate trot and with contrasts with which it begins. He put the comedic touch of the night, especially since none of the 9,000 culprits noticed.
Some might say that ‘Tonada del albedrío’ seems written by a utopian fifteen-year-old, but it won’t be me; I’m still young to be so skeptical And the legendary Che said / Like sowing a flower / The good revolutionary / Only love moves him / Only love moves him ».
It is one of the few criticisms that can be made of Silvio: the insulting naivety of some lines. The song made me think of a phrase widely used in Washington: “Your liberator is our terrorist.”
A nice moment later when Luis Eduardo Aute’s young niece appeared on stage and sang ‘Albanta’ with Silvio sitting next to her. ‘Inside’, also by Aute, was sung by Rodríguez with Paula (niece) at the piano in a beautiful tribute to the idol of idols.
I thought there was some power problem; I felt little force in the music from my position in front of the stage. I thought of those who were further away and got up for a spin. I came back convinced that it is something they do on purpose. The music, louder than usual, was heard better than ever at the Wizink Center. Clear and with room for nuances: loud enough to be heard; low enough to prevent people from speaking. At that moment, returning to my place Estrella en mano, I thought about the double bass and it was clear to me: it is a bet.
Honorable mention for ‘Who was it’, probably the best performance of the night. It was the song with the most dynamism and raised the audience from their seats to an ovation that comes from the soul. ‘Song of the Chosen One’, another theme of the greats, should be in all the modern popular composition manuals on the market. If you are thinking of buying one, make sure it is included.
The second part of the concert was better, with hits like ‘The era is giving birth to a heart’, where the drummer can finally come to the top, and ‘Ángel para un final’, with an intro that seems taken from an epic soundtrack. The Cuban had time between songs to spur people on with a: “Down with the PP!” The ovation was general.
‘El necio’, another good lyric, stands out as a dynamic and energetic song before ‘Ojalá’, which closes the concert before the encores. Little can be said about it that has not already been said. I will leave only a brushstroke: in this reinterpretation of the theme it is seen that Rodríguez is a living artist, not a demigod leaning on his laurel. The search continues until the lady in black knocks on the door.
When he left, there were no protesters left. I thought about them and how much they would have enjoyed inside with the constant shouts of support for their homeland.
“Viva Cuba” was heard after each song. Surely the insiders have a very different idea about what Cuba is and should be than the outsiders have, to be sure. But also, and in that they resemble Spain, both “sides” want the same thing. They just don’t know, because nobody wants them to know. It would cease to be profitable for many.
I got a little sad but I remembered the songs, that I had finally been able to listen to ‘Ojalá’ live and, as in the well-liked cliché of Casablanca, I said to myself: “We will always have the music.”