Gilberto Santa Rosa is truly the Gentleman of Salsa.
Puerto Rican salsa singing gem Gilberto Santa Rosa brought his musical charisma to the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night, after Sheila E. served as an opening act during their part of this year’s “Americas & Americans Festival.”
Gilberto Santa Rosa, known as “El Caballero de la Salsa” (the Gentleman of Salsa), dazzled from beginning to end; there just isn’t any other salsero like him, particularly when considering his talents in the tropical and romantic salsas on top of his undeniable ability to improvise infectious salsa rhymes on stage.
As expected, Santa Rosa dressed just like a gentleman: He wore fitted blue jeans, brown loafers, a shirt and a baby blue sports jacket. He looked fashionably well, like a true pioneer of romantic salsa. He has been a salsero for over 38 years, according to him.
Just as quickly as he appeared on stage, Santa Rosa got things started with “La Agarro Bajando.” The rather upbeat, and at times mellow, track rapidly provided a boost of energy. It was in this 2001 release that Santa Rosa’s powerful vocals were noticed, alongside his talent to mesmerize with his salsa steps.
He soon followed that with “Por Que Yo En El Amor Soy Un Idiota,” which delighted the crowd. Among other notable tunes Santa Rosa performed were “Que Manera de Quererte” while he played the maracas and “Mentira,” a soothing treat.
Santa Rosa surprised the audience when he delivered a musical piece from the traditional folklore of Colombia. It was “Matilde Lina,” a vallenato melody written and first performed by Leandro Diaz. Santa Rosa, however, made it his own. It was impressive, for a lack of a better word, and the Bowl responded with cheers.
All good things must come to an end, though. Santa Rosa closed out with “Conteo Regresivo” and “Que Alguien Me Diga” (in bolero format) before tropicalizing the venue with “Bailalo.”
Sheila E., who cited she recently returned from Slovakia on a 19-hour flight, lived up to expectations during her 50-minute set. Regardless of what event she’s performing at, Sheila E. tends to be quite the energetic live act. To many, she is a dynamic singer but to the rest she is a true multi-instrumentalist.
She not only sings but also plays the drums, timbales and guitars, among other instruments. You could consider her the feminine version of salsa and Latin jazz legend Tito Puente.
Sheila E. briefly managed to promote her latest album, Icon, which features a blend of rock, pop, salsa and Latin jazz. It is her first album in 14 years. Icon features several collaborations, including one with Prince in “Leader of the Band;” he co-wrote the track.
Her biggest triumph on stage came when she performed “Fiesta,” which included the Freaks Dance crew freestyling on the dance floor. It was rather phenomenal to witness, and Sheila E. elevated the night’s energy with those six minutes.
Some fans didn’t enjoy her performance, though. They thought it was “too loud” and “noisy.”
This was Santa Rosa’s night and no one could stop dancing and singing along to his songs.
“What a night,” a beautiful Latin lady to my left screamed.