Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 2:33 p.m.
Juanes at the Hollywood Bowl
Elena de la Cruz
Juanes with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
The Hollywood Bowl
Colombian musician, Juanes, accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, took the stage with the children of YOLA (Youth Orchestra LA) at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday. The concert was a gesture that showed his advocacy for music education as a resource for empowerment and advancement. The man born Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez continues to prove that aside from being a pop/rock heart throb, he's also a mastermind in bridging the gap between languages and cultures, poverty and politics, love and despair in an enigmatic way that is both subtle and riveting.
One of the most definitive moments of the concerts was the beginning; although the musical arrangement was beautiful, and Juanes' forever-young face was projected as on jumbotrons singing passionately, his voice was nowhere to be heard. Immediately the crowd began to panic and yell, not so much in anger, rather in anxiety of the thought of missing a single song. Flustered cries of "No, oh my God, I can't hear him!" and "No te oigo papí chulo!" percolated from the ladies in the crowd. Soon after, he signaled timeout and stopped his band. As he patiently waited for a replacement microphone to be set up, he made a heart with his hands and that was more than enough to ease the crowd and make the women go crazy.
With the live mic ready to go, like a true professional, he announced, "Alright, let's start this over" (yes, in English). He proceeded with a passionate rendition of "Fíjate Bien," a tune that talks about the estimated 80,000 land mines in his native Colombia-- residual from the drug war-- that have tragically disfigured and killed many children who unknowingly step on them when playing or walking to school.
After the first couple of songs, he spoke about the influence of music to connect us all. He preaches that regardless of the language one speaks, we are connected by culture, by our common humanity. His theory continually proved itself last night through the diversity in the crowd; elderly couples with a wine and cheese picnic basket, Asian young adults enjoying sushi, Colombians waving their flags, and plenty of seductively dressed young Latinas. After his rendition of his popular "La Camisa Negra" (yes, he was wearing a black shirt), he followed up with a a note-worthy interpretation of Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved." For his collaboration with YOLA, he chose three of his most hopeful and love-inspired songs: "Volverte a Ver," "Es Por Ti" and "A Dios Le Pido," which were very appropriate for the kids who ranged in ages.
After the intermission, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra joined him and they interpreted Juanes' hits in a beautiful fusion of classical, jazz, rock, and Caribbean, leaving one to question if they were ever intended to be heard any other way. The last song, "Odio Por Amor," was an inspiring, bilingual call for unity and between the firework show that accompanied it and the children of YOLA that came on stage waving the flags of the countries in the Americas, it felt like there was no better place in the world that embodied this than the cultural cauldron that is Southern California. Juanes delivered to his fans during two-and-a-half hour show. He rocked his collaborations and overcame initial technical difficulties, but it was his performance of "Difícil" that really stole the show. It was the most raw, emotional, and honest I have seen him perform. Again, Juanes' appeal shows that modern Latin pop is not always about filling a set with obligatory dance songs about love song and heart-break. His set tells the story of his life and that's the type of honesty and openness that his fans loyally connect with.
Critical Bias: I love me some Colombianos.
Crowd: Really into the show. Sections of preppies mixed in with section of drunks; that's L.A. for you.
Overheard: A guy telling his buddy, "I just came to see the Sofia Vergara look-alikes."
Random Notebook Dump: Remember to always bring back up batteries for your camera.