15/06/07

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Manu Chao

Stubb’s, June 11

Chaos pounding backstage 30 minutes before star time, Manu Chao broke into a mischievous grin when called on the fact that this wasn’t his first time playing Austin. « No, I came 15 years ago, » he acknowledged in Spanish. « South by Southwest. » More like 18 years ago. That would be 1989, in support of Mano Negra’s madhouse masterpiece Puta’s Fever, showcasing all the way from Paris at another Lost Austin hot spot: the Austin Opera House. Remember anything about the show? « Very good memories – sí, sí, sí. I know that here, too [tonight], it’ll be good. » Two solid hours of Chao and his backing quartet’s jump, jump, jump obliterated « good. » The sheer release of top-tier Latin rock bands, Café Tacuba to Molotov – both veterans of Stubb’s – remains unmatched by most North American indie rock acts, and Chao, a forefather of the rock en español movement, proved yet again he’s a powerhouse. He and his longtime backing clandestines performed as if they were a Mano Negra favorite: « King Kong Five. » Like Little Richard or any number of touring museum spectacles, Chao doesn’t so much do whole songs as he pulls pieces of them out of the high-octane skank he and his crew brew onstage. Splitting the set list evenly between his two solo albums, 1998′s Clandestino and 2001′s Proxima Estación: Esperanza, Chao previewed none of his forthcoming third solo disc, not even premiere tease « Rainin in Paradize, » downloadable at www.manuchao.net. « Mr. Bobby » (Marley), chased by an audience member jumping onstage with a giant Che Guevara banner, « Me Gustas Tu, » « Clandestino, » and « Desaparecido » all stoked the house but couldn’t match the locomotive « Rumba de Barcelona. » By the same token, « Merry Blues » and « Dia Luna … Dia Pena » paled next to the punk rock lashing of « Volver, Volver. » Yes, that « Volver. » That left a pair of encore sets, the first touched off by Puta’s Fever convulsion « Mala Vida, » the second by Fever‘s « Sidi H’ Bibi. » Fever dreams don’t burn any brighter.