Concert Review: Juan de Marcos & the Afro-Cuban All Stars (3/9/2013)

On Saturday night, I saw a very fun concert: Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars. They played at the Berklee Performance Center, which is in many ways a very nice venue, but it has a strange way of sucking the life out of the music and making you feel a bit divorced from the proceedings on stage. It’s a little too clean, too precise. When I saw Glen Hansard there last year, he almost seemed a bit aggravated about how quiet the audience was – but there’s just something about that place that makes you want to sit back and relax. It works really well for certain kinds of music, but not for bands that want to throw a party. So it wasn’t really the perfect venue for this group, since they were very much a “get up and dance!” kind of band. They did eventually manage to get people up, though – the singers came down on the floor with wireless microphones and got the crowd going:


The Afro-Cuban All Stars have been around for almost 20 years, sharing Cuba’s musical legacy with the world. They are probably best known for their involvement with the legendary Buena Vista Social Club, although the current lineup is not really similar to the BVSC album/film.

There were a lot of highlights during Saturday’s show; I was very impressed by Laura Lydia Gonzalez’ big clarinet solo (especially considering how young she appears to be!). Another part I loved was when they brought out a young man from Berklee to play a piano solo – I unfortunately didn’t catch his name, but he was excellent, and looked like he was absolutely thrilled to be on stage with that band. But probably my favorite part was towards the end of the show when they managed to get everyone on their feet and a few very talented couples from the audience started dancing in the aisles. Dancing in the aisles is always a sign of a good show :)

You can see a performance they did for KPLU a few weeks ago here:

The All Stars are currently doing a week at the Blue Note in NYC, and then continuing on for another half-dozen dates in the southeastern U.S. (check their tour schedule here). Recommended!

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