Better than ... Britney Spears at Staples Center. Seriously, though. With this round of concert dates Maná has now surpassed Brit's record for appearances there. Staples even held an official press conference about it.
But let's talk about the show.
Ultra huge Mexican pop rockers Maná can bring it. Hell, we were totally floored -- along with the screaming crowd -- by the booming, big-haired, broad-bellied Fher Olvera when he and his crew swept through L.A. on the first leg of their Drama y Luz tour last June. So, naturally, we had high expectations for round two. But things were a bit uneven.
It was nothing big poppa Olvera couldn't shake off, and most of the mesmerized crowd probably didn't notice anything amiss. But we felt there was a certain darkness to the evening, that raw edge that starts to show after a band's been on the road for nearly a year straight.
Olvera was resigned and contemplative at first. Several times he raised one hand in the air and closed his eyes for dramatic effect. Girls in the crowd held each other and sang along solemnly. Grown men mouthed the words with furrowed brows. And when Olvera held his mic out to the floor and waved his hands like a choir director, the response was uncharacteristically muted.
Even a surprise appearance by celebrated Spanish rocker Enrique Bunbury -- who duetted with Olvera on "El Dragón" -- couldn't rouse our section's front row out of their seats.
But these guys are old pros. After somber renditions of "Vuela Libre Paloma" and "Bendita Tu Luz," one roadie handed Olvera a bottle of tequila -- the legit stuff, straight from Jalisco. He tipped the bottom up and downed half of it, and a strange sort of chaos ensued.
Girls started hiking up their skirts, dudes were double-fisting giant beers, Olvera left the stage for wardrobe change number one and the first Mexican flag of the evening appeared in the crowd (more would surface as the evening went on). The tequila evidently began to kick in during "Clavado En Un Bar," as Olvera flailed his limbs, wagged his finger then fell onto his back and laid out on stage with his hands over his face.
He kept it up -- though he was slightly off-key at times. They did a big instrumental number to showcase Sergio Vallín's talents, and Alex González performed his extended drum solo just like last time. There was another, slightly sleazier serenade of "Vivir Sin Aire" for one special L.A. lady, who just so happened to look like a model. Olvera handed her a glass of wine and enveloped her in an awkward, swaying dance while he sang.
Then he went off stage and changed pants again -- strange, right? -- choosing clownish vertical stripes for the grand finale.
"Ay, Los Angeles," he said, pausing for an extra long monologue in the midst of one of the later numbers, "son de puta madre."
He brought out a giant Mexican flag during "Rayando El Sol," then topped off the night with a hip-swaying encore in which he played an actual cowbell. So yeah, he outdid himself. Cheesy? Of course. But what, in all honesty, is more satisfying than a huge hunk of cheese sometimes?
The crowd: Surprisingly heavy on the men this time around. At one point, Olvera leaned out, grabbed one guy's beer, took a gulp and handed it back. The guy and his friends went apeshit.
Random notebook dump: We were kind of in love with bandana-clad percussionist Hector Quintana, who at one point started doing the running man while playing hand drums.
Set list below.
(Being fashionably late, we missed the first one or two songs.)
Lluvia al Corazón
El Verdadero Amor Perdona
Vuela Libre Paloma
Bendita Tu Luz
Manda Una Señal ??
Clavado en un Bar
Te Lloré Un Río
Eres Mi Religión
Si No Te Hubieras Ido
Vivir Sin Aire
En El Muelle de San Blas
Rayando El Sol
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See also: Maná - Staples Center - 6/23/11