Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club really went all out for their Aug. 19 show at the Hollywood Bowl.
No Ibrahim Ferrer, no Compay Segundo, no Rubén González – no problem.
A charismatic Omara Portuondo and vocally enchanting Eliades Ochoa paved the way for the acclaimed and well-regarded Cuban ensemble Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club Wednesday night, when their “Adiós” Tour lit up at the Hollywood Bowl before a sold-out and extremely pleased crowd.
To the delight of all in attendance Spanish flamenco singer Diego El Cigala served as the opening act. He, without a doubt, entertained with his oftentimes-raspy voice during the 45-minute performance, which included the thrilling “La Bien Pagá.” This piece, as well as the others, turned out to be crowd favorites not only for his infectious vocals, but also for what each offered sound wise. Interestingly enough, El Cigala added Afro-Cuban rhythms to his set – something that proved musically enticing.
But the night belonged to the music phenom from the Caribbean island. A piano, trombone, tres, guitars and a laúd, among other instruments, were all prominent during Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club’s set.
“A Caballo Vamos Pal Monte,” for example, featured heavy play of the tres by Ochoa, who also delivered catchy vocals. The majority of Ochoa’s tunes with OBVSC sport countryside musical influences that reflect his guajiro look. His cowboy hat makes him look even more authentic and adorable on stage. The crowd witnessed more of the same with “A La Luna Yo Me Voy”, a melody Ochoa wished NASA would listen to.
Portuondo is beloved. When she made her first appearance on stage, the audience greeted the icon with a standing ovation without her even having sung one tune. That was classy, and she deserved it, of course.
The 85-year-old’s performance climaxed with “Veinte Años,” accompanied by Rolando Luna and his soothing piano. She left everyone speechless with those meaningful lyrics and her incomparable voice. The song also featured intriguing trombone play from Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos, the band’s musical director, in its middle.
Barbarito Torres, the laúd player, enthralled from beginning to end, leaving the mark of his masterful skill. The laúd, to the surprise of no one, was a treasure while Ochoa delivered “Chan Chan,” before “El Cuarto De Tula” fired up the crowd with its uptempo feel.
Ochoa and OBVSC finished with a vigorous encore in “Candela,” unarguably their biggest hit of their entire repertoire. Everyone stood and danced, as expected, while enjoying the exuberant song.
OBVSC really went all out on this show, their last ever … for now!