September 4, 2012
See also: Our People issue profile of Gaby Moreno
Better than.... Your current favorite Spanish artist.
Celebrating the release of her first all-Spanish album Postales, Gaby Moreno performed her entire work live last night at Largo. Wearing a shiny 1920's-inspired flapper style dress and headband, she had a full stage of musicians including string and horn sections and backup singer, not to mention a classic chrome microphone.
The Latin music scene here in Los Angeles has been in somewhat of a drought this year. I mean sure we have some favorite musician, but when was the last time an artist put an album out that caught national or worldwide attention? Postales has that potential.
Van Dyke Parks -- best known for his work with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys -- joined her for the first set on piano, which consisted of classic songs. One was "The Immigrants," by calypso artist David Rudder. Moreno said that it was a strong song relevant for today, one which should be the new national anthem of the United States.
"The immigrants ain't going nowhere, we're here for America," she sang.
The Guatemalan-born singer-songwriter, who now lives in L.A., revealed the inspiration behind her lyrics: everything from Latin American mythological tales of crazy clowns and evil spirits creeping through bedroom windows to love letters she discovered from her grandparents over 50 years ago.
Her cocktail mix of Latin stories, with roaring '20s flare and '60s blues, is what defines her music style. The immigrant experience is her soul. She opened her second set with her single "Ave Que Emigra," a song about how she felt when first settling in L.A.
But Moreno is more than just a Spanish artist. The range in her vocals can hang with the best, in any language. After all, her last album was bilingual, and she has a fan base across the world.
"El Sombreron" took the audience on a cinematic ride fit for a Tarantino movie, with dramatic guitar and horn buildups. Moreno can sound sweet and serenading, but she will turn it up and make the folks in the last row feel like they're sitting in the front.
Others, like "Valle De Magnolias," gave a Sharon Jones soul-clap type of swing, and maybe some Norah Jones bluesy pop on "No Estoy Tan Mal."
She ended her set performing solo, just her and a guitar. (She could have easily done the whole show that way.) A standing ovation preceded an encore, where she played "No Regrets" and "Sing My Life."
Overheard in the crowd: "This sounds like the album Ximena Sarinana should have made."
Set list below