Manu Chao Benefit Gig @ The Coronet Theatre

It’s not often you see such a global superstar in Elephant and Castle (enthused one fan) but, taking time out from preparing for his La Ventura tour in North America and Japan, Manu Chao swung by The Coronet Theatre to play a benefit gig for Colombiage – the Brixton-based charity dedicated to Colombian arts and culture.

Manu Chao and his three-piece band entered the stage to rapturous cheers from a full house and quickly got things going, with guitarist Madjid Fahem demonstrating the awesome sounds that can be made on a battered old classical guitar. The show got moving with such favourites as El Dorado and Mr Bobby, the latter a song about Bob Marley, by whom Manu Chao is obviously inspired. This marked the switch to electric guitar and the beginning of a high-octane punky-reggae-world music set that rapidly worked the crowd into a frenzy. The songs, stripped down, raw and pumped up, lacked the instrumentation and subtle nuances of the album versions but more than made up for them in the committment, energy and love of the performance.

Three middle-aged men full of talent, animal energy and punk sensibilities, bare chested and with stamina one can only dream of… Manu Chao often beating his bare chest with the microphone, singing in several Latin languages and throwing in some intermittent formation moves with his compadre – this gig was HOT! Added to this, his unyielding conviction and passion in the delivery of messages of solidarity, peace and justice ever present in the songs. The trio energetically bounced their way through the favourites – Mi Vida, Clandestino, La primavera, Me gusta tu, La Chinita, Desaparicido and many more. With a crowd as passionate as the band themselves, it was always going to take several encores before the night could possibly end. We departed with a sense of euphoria, already longing for the next time…

Anglo/Brazilian ensemble Saravah Soul did an excellent job of warming up the crowd with their Latino funk/Afro grooves. Again, full of energy, verve and passion the lead singer had the snakiest, grooviest hips we’d seen on a front-man for yonks and they did a great version of Let me stand next to your fire by Jimi Hendrix amid a lively, fun set.

Completing the evening was an all Colombian DJ set, which couldn’t help but keep the place moving between bands.