This past Wednesday marked the beginning of Buena Vista Social Club’s North American farewell tour and the very first time I saw them live. From the original ensemble, only four members remain alive and with a slew of younger musicians, they are known as Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.
I traveled to Ravinia to witness the current incarnation of this beloved group. The festival was packed with serious picnic goers, a la Portlandia’s hilarious skit, ready to be swept away by infectious son. After stuffing my face with endless cheese, meats and wine, the concert began with a piano solo in tribute of virtuoso Ruben Gonzalez. A photo slide show of the charismatic piano player was shown as music filled the outdoor venue and people began to dance. Similar tributes were paid throughout the concert to the deceased, more prominent members of the band including Ibrahim Ferrer + Compay Segundo.
Because I wanted to enjoy the picnic aspect of the festival, I purchased lawn seats but at times, I wished I were closer to the stage for a more intimate experience. Oh well. Silver lining to lawn seats? The fact that I danced freely to songs from the Lost & Found album such as Bruca Manugua and Bodas de Oro! The overall experience was incredible, watching all the seasoned couples dancing and enjoying song after song. But for me, the highlights of the show were the veteran stars Eliades Ochoa and Omara Portuondo. My heart swelled with joy and my hips couldn’t resist swaying when Mr. Ochoa delivered his timeless De Camino A La Vereda. I was immediately transported to what Cuba’s musical golden age must have been like in the 40s. But Omara Portuondo, the 84-year-old diva, shone the brightest as she sang Quizas, Quizas and closed the show with Veinte Años. I just hope I can have half of her lively presence and dance moves when I hit my 80s!
I highly encourage you to see this iconic band one last time, if you have the chance. Here is a listing of their tour dates. Let their brand of son put a spell on you and fall in love with them like I did. I leave you with a newfound gem: Gorillaz’ Latin Simon featuring Ibraim Ferrer. Please share your thoughts in the comments!