Review by Erica E. Phillips

WHO: Aterciopelados

WHERE: The Conga Room

WHEN: 7/14/11

Better than … the real thing? Maaaaybe not. But maybe. Tal vez.

If you were expecting Colombian fusion feminist rocktress Andrea Echeverri to open the night with a roof-raiser, well, you may need a little lesson in the finer ways of charming a female, ahem, audience.

Clad in a bedroom-ready, stage-sweeping black kimono, Echeverri started out playfully with “Ataque de Risa,” a tune off the Latin Grammy-winning 2008 album Rio that features her young daughter singing sweetly precious baby backup vocals. Sadly — though probably for the best — Echeverri's kid didn't tag along for the show, but Aterciopelado numero dos Héctor Buitrago, seated atop the blue orb of a rubber exercise ball (no joke), bounced along through the first few numbers with plenty of childlike energy.

Credit: Lauren M. Whaley

Credit: Lauren M. Whaley

In English, Aterciopelados translates roughly as “the velveties,” and the first two-thirds of the show kind of felt that way — soft, but with a soulful thickness. Echeverri and Buitrago both paused between songs to reverently hang handmade tapestries and flags from a clothesline strung across the back of the stage. The more homey decorations they added, the more the Conga Room's sparkling sheen morphed into a kind of warm and inviting blanket-fort. During “Pipa de la Paz,” Echeverri closed her eyes and swayed, and there was this weird, electric calm as the girl in front of us tipped up her cup and fed a sip of margarita to her man.

Then shit got up. The long and luscious lead-in totally delivered. During “Bandera,” an anthem about fucked-up border policies in the Americas, we noticed a Colombian flag undulating across the crowd, raised hands punching it to and fro.

que quién es usted

que dónde nací

entonces no puede venir por aquí

que de qué color es y que dónde nací

entonces no puede venir por aquí

Then the circle of jumping, leopard-print ladies to our left started shouting for the duo's breakout 1995 hit, “Bolero Falaz,” and Echeverri delivered. Much to the screaming pleasure of the entire room. Mamita Echeverri led into the next song — their last — with an English tease a la Lauryn Hill: “Ready or not, here I come …”

Credit: Lauren M. Whaley

Credit: Lauren M. Whaley

There was a triple-play encore, the Colombian flag came up on stage and was draped from the clothesline and the leading lady finally seriously got down, kimono-cape flying as she spun in hypnotic circles. When the lights went up, the velveties stuck around to toss handmade swag to the audience, hug, bow, and hug and bow again and slowly amble off, as wiped out as the dancing crowd but just as inclined to hold on just a few moments longer.

Credit: Lauren M. Whaley

Credit: Lauren M. Whaley

Personal Bias: I am probably the biggest Shakira fan you know.

The Crowd: There was an odd abundance of middle-aged Northern Europeans sporting giant all-access badges around their necks and busting moves in friendly dance circles, particularly during the club mix that played between sets.

Random Notebook Dump: Local openers Las Cafeteras completely killed with their foot-stomping L.A.-ified Son Jarocho set. But we couldn't help but notice a striking resemblance, in tone and sincerity, between Cafetera / zapateador Hector Flores and Davis (Steve Zahn) from HBO's Treme.

Credit: Lauren M. Whaley

Credit: Lauren M. Whaley

Set list after the break:

Set list:

1) Ataque de Risa

2) Tréboles

3) Ya Yo No

4) Maligno

5) Mis 32 Dientes (cover)

6) Madre Naturaleza

7) Alegría

8) Pipa de la Paz

9) ??

10) Rompecabezas

11) Yo

12) Bandera

13) Bolero Falaz

14) Florecita Rockera


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