CALLE 13 — San Francisco Review

24 10 2011

2011 is almost over people … and as the old saying goes, it’s nice to save the best for last.

If you recall, Calle 13 canceled a much-anticipated appearance in San Francisco in May of 2011 and I’m sure a lot of us were like BOOOO!! In retrospect, it’s great they didn’t come. One, they built up the suspense, and two, a show at The Factory in San Francisco would have sucked. Bands like Calle 13 deserve better than The Factory. Something super cooler, like, THE FILLMORE.

Officially, the review won’t be online until tomorrow, but I wanted to post up at least a bit of it (OK, all of it) before hand. As well as show you some of my (terrible) photos. I take that back, they weren’t all THAT bad. But, I need more practice, obviously. Photos are property of the Daily Journal and moi. Just email me. No need to steal.

CALLE 13: WORTH THE WAIT
By Julio Lara • Daily Journal Staff

Some things are worth the wait.

Then there are the things worth that wait and a 90-minute delay.

Calle 13, the hip-hop group from Puerto Rico, falls into that elite category of things — their show at the Fillmore in San Francisco on Saturday night was a 110-minute Latin-urban musical earthquake. And while their show started much later than expected, the set, the music and the message were crystal clear — Calle 13 has taken over the world of Latin American music and there is plenty of room in their kingdom for everyone.

Rene Joglar (Residente), Calle 13’s lead lyricist, blamed it on the traffic, saying three songs into the set that their trip up from San Diego didn’t go smoothly. Their show was set for an 8:30 p.m. start, but didn’t commence until 9:55. What the delay did was pack the Fillmore to the brim not only with fans but with anticipation — not that there wasn’t plenty of that already. Last May, Calle 13 canceled a Bay Area appearance after a venue dispute at The Factory. They’ve since been through Europe and Latin America promoting their latest project “Entren Los Que Quieran.” It’s an album that has brought them even more critical acclaim and garnered 10 Latin Grammy nominations. If Calle 13 were stock, it’d be at its highest peak right now.

And it’s with that anticipation that fans of the group waited. And waited. And shouted less than favorable names at the group. And waited a little more.

With the crowd at a near boiling point, Calle 13 finally took to the stage, opening with “Baile de Los Pobres.” From that moment on, Joglar’s energy and incomparable lyrical ability coupled with a breakout-kind of performance by Ileana (aka PG-13), Residente’s younger sister and backup singer, boiled the Fillmore over. The success Calle 13 accomplished in 110 minutes of music most hip-hop bands can’t fathom with sets that may start on time and go for much longer.

But that’s because Calle 13 is a special and unique breed of group. When they first came out, they were quickly labeled as reggaeton. It was a stigma the band carried for a while and thus, it turned a lot of people off to their music. It’s a shame, because Calle 13 couldn’t be any further from a reggaeton group. Reggaeton groups don’t travel with nine-member bands and blow your mind with eclectic musical twists nor do they challenge your ears and force you to expand your melodic horizons.

Eduardo Martinez’s (Vistante) genius as a music producer was on full display Saturday night. With Calle 13, you get a little bit of everything, songo, samba, bassa nova, Latin-jazz. No two songs sound alike. That is the most anti-reggaeton description you can give a group.

But while the band is blessed to have Martinez and his genius, Calle 13’s biggest gift to the world is Joglar, who is quickly becoming the premiere front man in Latin American music. The guy is a furnace of energy on stage. And his delivery as a lyricist is razor sharp. He carries the band and the crowd on his shoulders.

And nowhere is that more important than in a hip-hop show. The reality is, most hip-hop shows fail because they are hard to follow, especially when you have an MC like Joglar who’s style is far from a cause-and-effect kind of flow. With most rappers, it’s hard to follow word for word with such a machine-gun type of delivery. But Calle 13 triumphs in that their hooks and their rich music compensate for that tendency to lose yourself. There is no disconnection. And that is a testament to Joglar as a rapper and most importantly, as a front man.

Perhaps the revelation of the night was Ileana, the backup singer, who is a lot of ways is more than just a backup singer. She’s Joglar yang and a perfect compliment to the group. The woman can do it all. She raps when needed, she supports Joglar when needed, and her folkloric voice in songs like “Pal Norte,” and “Tango Del Pecado,” prove she’s a unique talent. If and when she decides to come out with solo projects, the music world will be a better place.

It wouldn’t be a Calle 13 show without the message though. And if there’s anything the band has shown through their accent up the Latin music ranks is that their message of resistance, of civil action and equality is far more important than any music they can ever produce. Joglar and his group are musical activists, and the front man didn’t shy away from talking about education, violence and even the Occupy Wall Street movement. Sure, a 110-minute party is fun, but if you listen closely to songs like “La Bala,” “La Perla,” and “Calma Pueblo,” Calle 13 is preaching. “There is plenty of room under our proposal,” Joglar said, “and that is equality for all.”

Calle 13 finished the night with a four-song encore, ending with “Fiesta de Locos,” or “A Party for Crazy People.”

It was a party worth waiting for.

Here’s the rest of the photo gallery. If you click on it, it’ll take you to my Facebook album.

Here is your set list for the night. Calle 13 had a four-song encore.

And finally, to end this very long post … when you sell out The Fillmore, you enter into rarified air, and they make you a cool poster that they hand out at the end of the show. The last time I got one of these was when I saw Jaguares at The Fillmore. Very cool.

Julieta Venegas post to come very soon. Her show was at the Fox Theater on Sunday. Good weekend overall.

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