- Fania All Stars Concert in San Juan: They’re Back..And Better Than Ever!!!!!
The Coliseo in San Juan is gonna need a new roof after last Friday night’s blowout presentation of the Fania All Stars. From the first note played by opening act Roberto Roena & His Apollo Sound, the sellout crown of 18,000+ was on their feet and singing along to a 30 minute medley of Roena’s biggest hits; “Con Los Pobres Estoy”, “Mi Desengano”, “Boranda” “Cui Cui” & others. Roena’s three lead singers hit their marks both vocally and coreographically. Then the lights dimmed for a few minutes as the stage was reset for big show. In darkness, the drums rolled, a trumpet blared, the bass began that famous recongizable tumbao of “Descarga Fania”, the lights came up and there they were; all the musicians and singers with Adalberto Santiago out front singing lead..And that’s how the next three hours of Latin Music history began. I gotta take my hat off to Producer/Promoter Jose Dueno for a great show production wise. The sound, lighting, ten camera digital big screen TV and the use of some other multi-media special effects really brought the show to life. There was inbetween song talk, chatter or delay…It was fast paced, well planned out and well thought out. Although they were featured at times, the horn and rhythm sections, conducted by Isidro Infante, were used primarily as backups for the featured vocalists; Adalberto Santiago, Ismael Miranda, Cheo Feliciano, Luigi Texidor, Cita Rodriguez and Andy Montanez. Don’t get me wrong, guys like Nicky Marrero, Orestes Vilato, Eddie Montalvo, Bobby Valentin, Alfredo De La Fe and Louis Kahn did get their chance to jam out as well. Ismael Miranda did a four song medley consisting of “Sin Ti”, “Borinquen Tiene Montuno” and “Arsenio” and “Senor Serreno” without Larry Harlow at the piano.(Porque???) Larry was previously featured on “La Catera” with Adalberto singing lead and Louis Kahn and Alfredo De La dueling it out on the violins. There was a video presentation narrated by Johnny Pacheco honoring some of the bygone All Stars, such as Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Santito Colon, Hector Lavoe and Ismael Rivera. Johnny was sitting in a chair and carried out on stage to a standing ovation. It brought a tear to my eye seeing him so frail..this is the guy who founded Fania records folks.
At one point near the end of the show, the stage lights dimmed and some kind of electronic 3-D hologram in a box lit up with Hector Lavoe in it. Hector began singing “Mi Gente’ with the band playing along to a recorded track. Halfway through the song Willie Colon came out with his trombone in hand, standing along side the movingand singing image of Hector. Willie began to play and sing along with Hector..the audience went ballistic. I was sitting about 20 rows back and it looked great. Then Willie went on to sing lead on “Che Che Cole” and “Ah Ah Oh No”. The crowd sang along as the lyrics were being flashed on the TV screens.
The lights dimmed again and through the PA you heard “FAMILIA” and out came Cheo. Again the crowd went wild. Cheo, who has not been in the best of health lately, spoke a bit about his career, Joe Cuba and introduced “El Raton”. As he did 40 years ago at Yankee Stadium, guitarist Jorge “El Malo” Santana joined him on stage and made his guitar wail. Cheo followed “El Raton” with “Anacaona”with Harlow duplicating his famous piano solo from the original recording. The finale began with all the singers and players on stage jamming to “Quitate Tu” All the soneros got their turn to improvise and show off….no winner declared by me. The stage went dark and the house lights went up, but the crown kept chanting “Otra, Otra”. The band returned (as planned) and jammed for about ten minutes on Roena’s tune “Ponte Duro”. Roena did one of his old dance routines along side the hologram of his uncle Annibal Vazquez…they wereperfectly in step…as everyone in the band got a chance to solo and the dancing in the aisles continued to the end. For hose of you who didn’t get to see to concert either live or on pay-per-view, a video of concert is already in the works with Larry Harlow producing. Hopefully, this was just the first of many future Fania All Star concerts.
- Andy Harlow, WDNA Radio, Miami
Lots of videos, from 35 years ago to this summer. Click here to check them out.
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