Manu Chao – Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing – Philadelphia

Manu Chao played last Friday night (September 2, 2011) at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, this time with a more subtle but equally intense band, his new “La Ventura”. This show represented the second stop of his 2011 US tour, covering for the most part relevant venues in the East Coast and closing at the upcoming Austin City Limits festival.

Many times in this blog we tend to embellish and celebrate the work of emerging artists. We are proud of discovering new voices and we enjoy seeing them grow and eventually become what we all think they should. Also, from time to time, we are amazed and overpowered by the size of those that have conquered the world through their music and ideals.

Manu Chao represents for sure one of the latter, an icon to current alternative music; a symbol that have crossed over languages, political views and music genres. Ironically, for those of us that are old and wise enough to remember, he emerged back in the early 90’s from the streets of Paris, along with his ultra-alternative band Mano Negra, combining odd recordings of Afro-punk-latin-rock. In 1995, he abandoned Mano Negra and decided to travel through Latin America. Here he went off, recording and playing music from the streets, and inundating himself into the culture of the needed, the unheard. His experiences evolved into his 1998 masterpiece and first solo album “Clandestino”, if you ask me, one of the best albums of all times.

Descriptions of Manu Chao come in dozens. Spanish-born/French-bred Manu Chao is now a worldwide star that writes songs in a multitude of languages (more than 7), all of which can be easily used as political and social chants, exhortations for equality and freedom and why not, as party-starting celebrations. He has no problem transcending beyond multiple styles and his music entangles reggae, punk, rock, hip-hop, ska, surf and salsa among others with key influences from North
Africa, France, Spain and of course South America where he has spent a significant amount of time. Some refer to Manu Chao as the Che Guevara of latin music, and some of his songs have condemned political views of globalization, have challenged past US governments and above all have defeated them by achieving cross cultural dissemination of progressive and ultra democratic views.

Although Manu Chao has released only
3 studio albums, including 2007′s
Grammy-award winning “La Radiolina”, his schedule is full with live performances that have become epic to the audience. A clear example is last year’s live double album, “Baionarena”, a 33-track live album recorded in Bayonne, France. More recently, he produced a double-album, Viva La Colifata, where he collaborated with the patients of a Buenos Aires catholic psychiatric hospital, the album can be downloaded for free at his website.

Anyone attending a Manu Chao concert walks away astonished by the power and intensity of his message. On Friday, his performance was no different. He played flawless versions of his songs for almost two hours, including about 4 or 5 encore sessions. He offered incredible moments through the night. “ A todos los muertos de la frontera de Arizona..”, ”A sus familias” said Chao before playing “Clandestino”, dedicating this symbolic song to the multitude number of people that have died in the Arizona dessert in search for a new life, a new hope, a new beginning…the song was intensely felt by many who loudly cried along the aching song. I should definitely add that throughout the night the Philly crowd responded to Manu with equal energy. People spent the entire night dancing and singing along, something that certainly touched Manu Chao who kept saying: “Philadelphia you are crazy”. As expected, a night to remember, and a concert experience you must live if you hadn’t yet.

I leave you with a clip from that night…of course, from “Clandestino”.




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