Manu Chao, Kinky
at the Shrine Auditorium, August 1
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This packed international friendly pitted Mexican techno-rock contenders Kinky against French-Spanish-Basque rebel Manu Chao, making his second L.A. appearance in 20 years. And though the Shrine’s muddy acoustics and poor ventilation weren’t designed for midsummer rock concerts such as this, the hall’s elephantine arches — which loomed ominously behind the stage — made for an appropriately magnificent backdrop. “Welcome to my world,” Kinky’s front man, Gilberto Cerezo, sang mischievously as the Monterrey band expertly played off the Shrine’s echoes, underpinning their shiny, spacy dance-funk rock with Cesar Pliego’s relentlessly undulating dub bass.
After Kinky’s well-received set, sweaty fans pressed closer to the stage, chanting “Manu” like soccer hooligans. It felt like one of the Shrine’s old tent-show revivals as fainting acolytes were carried outside to be revived. Some women wisely removed their earrings in anticipation of the imminent chaos.
Chao and his crack backing band, Radio Bemba, stormed through his uplifting songs of salvation and liberation with nonstop Ramones-level intensity, while the crowd pogoed in unison. The ska-punk madness occasionally let up for lilting reggae interludes — as when the despairing entreaties of “Mr. Bobby” segued soulfully into Bob Marley’s “War” — but in general, even mellow tunes like “La Primavera” and “Día Luna . . . Día Pena” were transformed into fiery, militantly danceable anthems. The momentum increased further during encore renditions of Chao’s lost-in-Babylon lament “Clandestino” and his former group Mano Negra’s frantic “Mala Vida.” Finally, a dazzling Spanish-guitar break provided a moment of calm before the closing rush of “Bongo Bong” and a jacked-up “Merry Blues.” Chao’s mercilessly tight band were alert to most of his sudden changes from loping reggae grooves into punk tempos, sounding a bit mushy only on their own impossibly fast “Radio Bemba” theme song. Even Chao appeared thrilled. “See you soon,” he promised the raving, delirious, thirsty crowd.