Review: Carlos Vives @ Royal Albert Hall (London, 25th June 2016)

On the 25th of June, the Royal Albert Hall audience and hundreds of colombianos living in London enthusiastically welcomed the pop Latino hero and multiple Grammy-winner Carlos Vives for his second performance in the British Capital.

The Mexican ensemble Nortec Collective introduced the event and warmed the atmosphere with their electronic music combined with the sounds of accordion, trombone and an eye-catching red tuba. The musicians easily get the show going. They spontaneously engaged with the audience and excited everyone waving a Colombian flag borrowed from Vives fans. It took few seconds for the Royal Albert Hall to go mad, applauding and repeatedly cheering the techno-norteño band.

However, it was quite clear that everyone was there for the main act and they started to shout and repeat his name as soon as Nortec Collective performance was over. The chant “Carlos, Carlos” went on and on throughout the break until the audience’s favourite made his entrance. Then, the hall went totally dark and the onstage screen started showing footage of previous Vives’ gigs and Grammy award ceremonies. The flourish of Colombian flags which entertained during the break immediately gave way to hundreds of mobile phone screens longing to capture their owners’ musical hero.

Carlos Vives greeted his fans and thanked them to be there and they simply went over the moon. When the performance got underway, it was a triumph of colours and energy. Vives backing vocals and the Royal Albert Hall crowd created a unique atmosphere radiating joy and enthusiasm. In a few minutes the venue was dancing, following the traditional rhythms of Carlos Vives’ tunes. For his part, the Colombian musician and his band didn’t spare themselves: singing, dancing, interacting with the audience and even taking selfies with the first rows.

The artist from Santa Marta performed a selection of tunes spanning his whole career. His performance was also a Colombian greatest hits, because he measured himself with a wide range of traditional styles like cumbia, vallenato, bambuco and Latin rock. He even introduced on stage a Colombian hip hop band from the Pacific region. But, it was during the rendition of “Fruta Fresca” when Vives enthralled everyone. It’s hard to say if it was because of the mystical sound of the flute, flamboyant lights on the screen or insistent beats, but people danced ecstatically throughout the song.

All along the two-hour show, Vives kept on dancing, moving around the stage, running from one end to the other, reaching out to his fans, displaying his music skills, playing the guitar and harmonica and employing his vocal cords to their full potential. He left the scene for few seconds before the end of the show. He disappeared backstage and when he came back, he was wearing the English football team shirt and riding a bike. Everyone easily understood that it was the moment of “La Bicicleta”: Vives’ new single recorded in collaboration with Shakira and one of the most successful song of 2016. But it was his latest solo project, a new version of his 1995 song “La Tierra del Olvido”, to bring the Colombian fiesta to an end. Vives said adiós to his jubilant fans and, after an unforgettable performance, he proved why he’s one of the most popular musicians in the world.

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