The Gazette, Montreal

Less insane, but deeper

Heavens part for Manu Chao at Jean Drapeau Park and 23,000 exuberant fans enjoy festival of good will

T’CHA DUNLEVY, The Gazette

Published: Monday, July 02, 2007

It rained, it stopped, it rained some more, rainbows came and went. There was a chill in the air. Two minutes into Latin ska-pop punk Manu Chao’s outdoor jazz fest show, last night at Jean Drapeau Park, the rain stopped, and the party started.

We had waited six years for Chao to return. His back-to-back sold-out nights at Metropolis at the 2001 jazz fest still stand out as two of the craziest communal concert experiences this critic has witnessed.

It was with half the band and 10 times the crowd that the multi-lingual troubadour played last night – a pared down group of five playing to an exuberant audience of 23,000.

While a hot, steamy night may have been more appropriate, the wild weather seemed only to add to the atmosphere. Our man and his Radio Bemba band came to play, and people came to party – by any means necessary.

They started strong. Fast, relentless riffs carried the night. Jumping in the air, a red-yellow-black-and-green-striped scarf around his head, Chao emitted a chilled exuberance. Travelling the world, spreading his vibe of goodwill, solidarity with the little folk and resistance to the powers that be – that’s what he does.

Three songs in, everyone was jumping and clapping along to Casa Babylon, beginning to end. For Tumba, next, all joined in instinctively on the « Oh-oh-oh » chorus, likewise for Desaparecido’s hook, « Cuando llegare? »

He tossed in some favorites – Bienvenida a Tijuana, Me Gustas Tu, Clandestino – and let up slightly on the non-stop barrage delivered last time.

This visit was less insane, with more depth, but was still an incredible, unforgettable fiesta through and through.

With barbs to George W. Bush thrown in for good measure.