The outsides of La Tropical are, at nine twenty on Saturday night, a surprisingly organized crowd that moves in a row from the street 41, skirting the parking lot, towards the door of the Salon Rosado Benny Moré. The concert they attend will not begin until after midnight, but after the record of the public that burst at the Cuban Art Factory on Friday the twenty-third of November, nobody wants to risk being left out. The Tropical is much bigger than the Factory, but one never knows. La Tropical, they say, is the thermometer of popular music in Cuba and, an hour and a half before the concert, is bursting.
Inside people drink beer and dance with a playlist that throughout the night will include few Cuban themes (namely, The custard, from Habana Abierta). People speak and exhale a gray smoke that briefly blurs the faces. There are people who are made selfies, as if they wanted to leave in an image the constancy that they were here tonight. Or not, perhaps they only do it to kill time, because a good part of the people who arrived tonight have already seen Cimafunk, surely many times in the last eight months; more than they should, even. And surely they will continue to see it, even though that does not necessarily mean a change between what they have seen and what they will see tonight. And there are also people who came to discover. That has surprised a good day singing under a "me voooyyy", without being very clear where it has come from, and that has made the tail of La Tropical to know the phenomenon live. For those patients tonight's concert will be, surely, spectacular.
The stage, the lights and all the technological paraphernalia announce a concert. Only the music is missing, that detail. Therapy, the album that Erik Cimafunk published at the end of 2017, and which has been playing since then in nightclubs and when any cultural event moves in Havana, it does not seem enough. The Brecht of Saturdays can be content with him another season; The Tropical needs more, much more.
My friends argue about what topic should open the concert and the premieres that await. About the arrangements that are sure to surprise and about the guests. My friends say that Erik has to go up on stage at La Tropical to someone big -Omara, to name a few- to sing along with him and earn respect. My friends drink beer and smoke and say that maybe this was not the time to do this concert, because Erik is running the risk of getting burned. I listen and I agree sometimes and others I argue a little. We kill time.
Minutes after twelve Erik Alejandro Rodríguez appears on stage with Los Niches and releases that half-torn song that is Faustino Congo, without further ado, as one says: you came to enjoy with me, but first you have to hear me. And, at least he, it sounds huge. It will be followed by topics Therapy and some "premieres" already known by its audience (Cook, Regalao...), and others arranged to play a duet or give voice to guest rappers.
Actually, the issues of Therapy more faithful to the original arrangement were those that best played at the concert (Patient and Do your thing, this with Robertico Carcassés at the piano), leaving Stop the time, of the most beautiful songs of the phonogram, as one of the biggest disappointments of the night, played a duet with Isla Ochoa in a version that seemed not to have been sufficiently rehearsed.
It was also felt the change in the choirs, in which the new voices interspersed their role playing the metals (trombones), of questionable relevance at least in the themes of Therapy, where originally they do not exist. As if the band had not finished incorporating those instruments, and also does not seem to have gained too much in voices. In short, you feel the absence of Adriana Pimienta, which was so well matched to the voice and style and energy of Erik. The rest of the band, with the exception of the keyboards in some theme, fulfilled its role to the vocal height of a Cimafunk that, yes, takes over the stage from the first note and moves as if possessed to the beat of its funky, infecting The audience could not stop moving or chanting until the end of the concert.
The audio - as always, but how long? - disappointed again. Brenda Navarrete, who was hardly heard in Alabao; a real pity for what his always sensual interpretation represents on that subject.
By all accounts, the concert was designed to impress. In terms of scene production, the design lived up to expectations. In musical terms, I'm afraid, it was nothing new. Who has followed Cimafunk since reappearing in the Cuban music scene after the disintegration of the Boys, could have had a great time, but with a proposal exactly like the one he has enjoyed before in the Brecht, El Sauce or the Factory of Cuban art
A year is little or nothing for the journey of an album, it is true, but when that same album has been playing-live, for others-almost weekly in so many places, it's time to reinvent it or give something new to eat.
That I was not ready for La Tropical? Can be.
Cimafunk came to move the floor to many for the first time in a long time, but that same fever that we suffer today for him can become an enemy if he relies too much on her. That we keep bursting the spaces to see him can not be the reason for him to offer the same thing over and over again. Except in a city like Havana, where often the reason to attend is followed by a resigned "what else is there?". We do not want to take off the lycra, but they have to continue to override the reasons for it.