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Gipsy Kings give unforgettable performance at Greek theatre

By Daily Bruin Staff

June 1, 1997 9:00 p.m.

Monday, 6/2/97 Gipsy Kings give unforgettable performance at
Greek theatre MUSIC: Vigor, passion envelop audience eager to hear
mystical melodies

By Kristin Fiore Daily Bruin Senior Staff The Gipsy Kings were
more than the musical entertainment at the Greek Theatre on
Thursday; they were the emcees to a party a few thousand strong. If
the band has carried anything with them from those early days in
steamy clubs, it is how to enchant every member of the audience,
from the stage-huggers to those crouched in the far corners of the
venue. Though many shows at the Greek (and any large theater) give
you a sore rump from sitting for two hours, the Gipsy Kings had the
entire audience on their feet within five songs – where they
remained, save the slow numbers, until the encore. This is quite a
feat, considering the average age of the audience was about 30.
Getting 20-year-olds to loosen up within an hour is difficult
enough. It was wonderful to see bald-headed men dancing with their
wives – beer bellies sloshing, underarms flapping, all completely
carefree. This should not be surprising, with the repertoire of
gorgeous, but still hip-shaking, gems the band has built up over
the years. However, they played only a few of their biggest hits,
namely "Bamboleo," "Baila Me" and "Un Amor," which are also among
their best songs. And even these were saved for nearly the end of
the show – which came much too soon, due to the ordinance that
Greek Theatre shows must end by 10:30 out of courtesy for the
area’s residents. Much of the set consisted of songs you won’t find
on their greatest hits album. But the band could have played
entirely new material and the audience probably would not have
cared. The Gipsy Kings’ melodies and harmonies are instantly
recognizable and likeable, unlike many good bands, and only the
slowest of them are not conducive to some serious shimmying. The
crowd joined in extra loud for the farewell song, crooning, "Ani
wah-wah," whatever that means. Needless to say, the "language
barrier" was not a barrier at all. It even gave the evening a
mystical quality, as though the power of the music, the dancing and
the lights in the darkness formed a ritual that went beyond literal
language and trite lyrics of love or loss. Part of the reason for
the Gipsy Kings’ success lies is their sheer size. It’s a good
thing they are as popular as they are, because they would never be
able to fit 12 musicians, seven of whom are guitarists, on a tiny
club stage. But they filled the Greek – both the stage and the
long, empty aisles – with an amazing sight and sound. The seven
guitarists, at least three of whom took turns singing, stood in a
line across the entire stage. They played with perfect
synchronization and such effortlessness that it seemed as though
they were merely swatting flies, not strumming steel strings. The
only hint of fatigue was the absurdly long, but probably needed,
half-hour intermission between two sets of about an hour each. The
band immediately regained the audience’s attention and enthusiasm,
however, even with the slow-paced crowd pleaser, "Un Amor." Another
little break came in the form of an instrumental consisting of only
a percussionist, a guitarist and two "clappers." The only problem
throughout the show was an often too-heavy bass that occasionally
drowned out the guitars and weighed the music down. In a rare case,
too much of a good thing – (bass is the instrument that is nearly
impossible to overdo) was, well, too much. But the rest of the show
went off without a hitch, which is tough to do with a dozen guys
onstage playing simultaneous, speedy chords and harmonizing. Other
forms of music are not as forgiving as rock – mistakes show more
prominently and are not as easily tolerated (who can forget the
rudeness of the crowd who booed at Pavarotti’s missed note?). But,
once again, the Gipsy Kings proved they have earned their status as
the kings of Latin music, a title eagerly given them by their
more-than-satisfied fans.

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