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Monday, March 19, 2007

Mana delivers some heat
Published March 19, 2007

What a great day to be from Guadalajara. Less than 24 hours after their beloved Chivas of Guadalajara faced D.C. United in a rare East Coast visit, proud natives of that city turned out Friday to see Mana, the biggest Mexican rock band of them all at the sold-out Patriot Center. It made 8,000 people forget about the frigid weather and sleet outside -- at least for two hours. Seeing Mana perform live was like being in a Latin music time capsule of sorts. One can instantly recognize the big-hair look and arena rock sound their genre made famous in the late 1980s with such ballads as "Rayando El Sol" ("Lining the Sun"). Lead singer Fher Olvera, wearing a black suit jacket and striped black and white pants, urged the swaying crowd to sing along, cigarette lighters in hand, with the chorus "O-e-ooo" as he paced the stage shaking his long, flowing curly brown hair. Their hit "Clavado En Un Bar" ("Stuck to a Barstool"), which set the standard for Latin pop-rock of the mid-1990s, features a singalong chorus and pulsating guitar riffs. As expected, it ignited the crowd, especially the women (a few brave souls wore only miniskirts and tank tops) holding on to their boyfriends as they screamed, shouted and danced in the aisles. Soon, however, the performance took a dark turn when the band lit candles on stage, changed into spooky cloaks and capes and donned Jason and Leatherface Halloween masks to sing the emotional environmental awareness song "Donde Jugaron Los Ninos?" ("Where Will the Children Play?"). The concert was filled with breathtaking special effects that included smoke machines, gigantic pyrotechnic fireballs during powerful guitar riffs, a spinning hydraulic mini-stage for drummer Alex Gonzalez and a cascading waterfall in front of the stage. In the song "Sigue Lloviendo el Corazon" ("The Heart Keeps Raining"), Mr. Olvera showed off his deep soulful voice as he reached out to wet his hand. Mana was the first major band to sing rock en Espanol in 1986 -- back when other Latin bands only did English-language rock covers -- and to make it commercially successful to the tune of three Grammy and four Latin Grammy awards, 22 million albums sold and more than 12 million in attendance at concerts leading up to their U.S. "Amar Es Combatir" tour. There seems no end in sight for the group's dominance in a genre it helped create.

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