Encore tonight at Toyota Center
Lots of Drama and Light as Maná rekindles love affair with Houston audience
Lights. Drama. Maná.
White clouds billowed against a gauzy silk screen as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony signaled the dramatic production that was about to unfold before the sold-out Saturday night crowd.
Seconds later, behind a see-through veil, lights illuminated the lion mane of Maná’s frontman Fher Olvera. Screams pierced through the darkness before silence engulfed the Toyota Center. On cue, the best-selling Latin rock band of all time launched into a series of songs that left the multigenerational, mostly Spanish-speaking audience panting.
Nearby a four-year-old girl jumped up and down as tears welled in her grandmother’s eyes. Like a grand novella, full of climaxes, the two-hour, pitch-perfect performance by Maná mirrored their widely successful eighth studio album, Drama y Luz.
“Look at him! Look at him,” cried longtime fan Yolanda Delalosa about Maná's frontman Fher Olvera. “He’s 50-something and he is still looking bad ass. His voice is still powerful.”
Drama and Light placed the band on top of Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart for nine weeks and counting. Lights and drama — literally — framed the evening’s performance, starting with an on-screen light display that accompanied “Lluvia al Corazon,” Maná’s current hit mixing emotive lyrics with glorious riffs by guitarist Sergio Vallin.
Olvera’s presence commanded the stage with his raspy vocal chords reminiscent of Sting but with a welcome serrated edge. “Look at him! Look at him,” cried longtime fan Yolanda Delalosa. “He’s 50-something and he is still looking bad ass. His voice is still powerful.”
Delalosa has seen Maná in concert four times. The last being nearly five years ago in Houston. Maná returns as popular as ever, with a second show on Sunday that was added after the Saturday evening concert sold out. The group kicked off the 2011 tour June 16 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, followed by four sold-out performances in Los Angeles.
With 25 million records sold worldwide, Maná has the ability to evolve while remaining faithful to its grass-root Spanish rock sound, not an easy task with followers fanned across 40 countries and the pressure to Americanize its Latin sounds. But rather than following in the footsteps of Shakira, Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias, Maná has yet to record an English album. So while still relatively unknown in most U.S. markets, the black-clad foursome continues their two-decade hold as Titans in Spanish rock history.
“In the Latin world, no one comes even close to them right now,” says fan Juan Cruz. “They are Maná. There’s nothing left to say.”
Perhaps, not. Maná is a Polynesian word for supernatural power, and through their music, the band conveys important socio-political messages. This was apparent in their visually powerfully rendition of “LatinoAmerica,” a rallying chant for unity among Latinos.
Throughout the arena, fans showed their pride by waving Mexican flags. At times, Olvera rested his voice by letting the audience finish the chorus. Few lyrics went unsung by the energetic crowd — from the classic “Oye Mi Amor” to the newest ballad, “Vuela Libre Paloma,” a poignant homage from Olvera, who recently lost his mother to cancer.
Consummate performers, Maná satisfied their fan base by playing a montage of hits. But the spotlight shined on muscular half-Cuban, half-Colombian, U.S. born Alex Gonzales whose pounding drum beats rolled across the audience as a podium lifted him high above the audience for a 10-minute solo, filled with gleeful playfulness and drama.
The highlight came when balladeer Olvera ushered a female fan on stage and serenaded her with the 1994 ballad hit, “Vivir Sin Aire.” But most telling as to why Maná remains entrenched in the hearts of fans was when a male devotee ran on stage, past security.
As burly guards scrambled to grab the man, Olvera waved them off and placed his right arm protectively around the interloper. The crowds cheered and clapped. And Maná continued the love affair with fans.