Manu Chao and La Ventura Electrify Bayfront Park, September 9

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See the full 18-photo Manu Chao at Klipsch Amphitheater slideshow.

Manu Chao 

La Ventura Tour

Hosted by Rhythm Foundation

Klipsch Ampitheatre at Bayfront Park

September 9, 2011

Onstage, Manu Chao is the gift that keeps on giving. With four encores and boundless energy, the diminutive multilingual artist and his three-man band, La Ventura, hit the crowd with a wall of power and sound last night, letting it pound for two hours, almost continually.

In a drizzle and billowing clouds of pot smoke, the whole theater jumped, swayed, clapped, "yo yo"-ed, and skanked on the Bay. DJ Pauer started off the night with a set that got the stoned audience in a party mood. Instead of the more tropical sound Manu brought stateside with Radio Bemba on his last US tour in 2007, this show harnessed the attitude and sharpness of the electric guitar.

The music was smooth and lovely. The performance kept the energy peaking. And with every short break, the feel of the place changed. It was as if they were playing the audience's mood. After almost every song, slow or fast, a ska breakdown brought out the madness in everyone.

The songs were fluidly merged and repeated. The sonic ideas were repurposed, recycled. Like with oral histories or Jesse Jackson preaching, the storyteller repeats the same sentiments again and again, allowing a clearer vision of a thought, creating a deeper groove in the listener's memory.

The Rhythm Foundation hooked it up with some great box seats providing a perfect view of the audience and stage. A thoughtful security guard spent the whole night removing sweaty people from our little plot of privilege. He danced around and mentioned that this reminded him of a Greatful Dead show.

The first break in energy brought Manu and La Ventura to "Clandestino" with its call and response, Manu shouting, "Marijuana," and the crowd responding, "ILLEGAL!" This led into an extended power ballad guitar solo, definitely a departure from the bongos of past. In his first real gesture of solidarity with the crowd, Manu took his microphone and pounded it at his heart, showing us its beat while his other hand pointed at the people in front of him.

Enthusiasm was everywhere. There weren't any crowdsurfers. But one girl found her way onstage and running from the security guards, placed her arms around the drummer, kissed his cheek, and leapt back into the audience.

Because of the extended encores, we kept thinking, This is it. It's gonna end soon. After the second encore, Manu and the band expressed intense appreciation of the audience for about five minutes. They took their time walking up and down the stage, with butterfly waves, on hands and knees in praise, with clapping and hands in prayer. They seemed totally present and it was moving. There's nothing like that feeling of being appreciated to make you want to follow that person around forever.

Even after the lights went on and people filed out of the amphitheater, Manu Chao and the band came back onstage greeting the most devoted fans. It was clear that unlike other unengaged performers acting as puppets, this was personal for him, and beautiful and intimate for us.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I think everyone actually likes Manu Chao. He's the great uniter.

The Crowd: Heard every language ever spoken, many flags wavers, less dreads than expected.

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