Argentine rock star Gustavo Cerati was supposed to perform solo in Miami for the first time last October, as part of an ambitious mix of DJs and Latin alternative acts at the American Airlines Arena, but the megafest was cancelled at the last minute without explanation. "Miami has always been a difficult spot to play," says Cerati on the phone from Argentina, noting just one of the many complications that have prevented him from performing in this city over the last eight years. But now he can safely say that this time is for real. On Wednesday Cerati will present South Florida with the music he's been creating after his brilliant past with Soda Stereo, arguably Argentina's best rock export.
The classic trio formation that marked Soda Stereo between 1984 and 1997 evolved into Cerati's sextet, where laptops and samplers were as important as his guitar and vocals, widely heralded as Soda's trademark. Without the band, Argentina lost a key element of its musical credibility in the region, but Cerati didn't waste time; he reinvented himself as a less-mainstream figure, still packing houses. "We've been playing the U.S. more often with this album," he points out, referring to the commute he made from California to New York to plug his third studio album, Siempre es Hoy (Today Forever).
"I was like ... do we have to skip Miami again? Okay, tough luck.... Honestly, I'm really glad that we finally have the opportunity to be there," he confesses. Cerati recalls last being in Miami around 1995 for a Soda Stereo show at the James L. Knight Center, two years before he led a stadium-sized farewell tour in the countries that cemented Soda's prestige all over Latin America. Today, that band's regional and international appeal is a torch that only Mexican rock bands Maná and Café Tacuba have been able to carry to the next level. Argentina's harsh reality now translates into heavier music, less glamorous. Perhaps that's why Soda was the last big name to emerge from that country.
At first Cerati avoided any whiff of nostalgia; he spent more than a year working on an album that departed from Soda's style by blending his Beatles-meets-the-Police pop influences into a more electronic context. His passion for programmed dance beats and delicate textures led to the album Bocanada in 1999, and to even more obscure and spacey electronic projects (including one in which he retooled Soda Stereo classics with a symphonic orchestra as backup) that left the Argentine press completely lost. As an act of reaffirmation, his latest album shows Cerati looking for a balance between instrumental passages and pop gems à la Soda Stereo. Restless, he has also released a double album of remixes called Reversiones, in which artists such as Kinky and Nortec Collective from Mexico rework Siempre es Hoy's songs. This brand-new effort is the essence of the show he'll bring to Miami, saving space for experimentation in the formal pop-rock context that made him famous.
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