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Jerry Rivera and friends at Central Park Summerstage Saturday February 25th, 2009: Serious Salsero

Summerstage promised the sound of young Salsa -well, Jerry Rivera is thirty-six so not that young but the other three performers look twenty-something so maybe young though only Salsa Rapper Magic Juan sounds new.

That’s not necessarily a complaint. N’Klabe have been promising a pure salsa sound and this afternoon with two conga players, a drummer, maracas, and bass they provide a pure rhythm based dance music as useful as Industrial electronica. And the audience know what to do -they dance and dance and truly some of these people were incredible. There was a man, must have been seventy, I couldn’t follow his feet the steps were perfectly in synch and perfectly intricate. N’Klabe were a study in audience enchantment. I wish I coulda taken “Woods” there and shown them how you connect with the people who most want to give pleasure -however you might want to define the word. The three singers are lively but not much vocally, still by the time they get to their 2005 hit “I Love Salsa” we are all believers.

Next up is Magic Juan. The Magic one has two chick dancers showing off in front of him and back up tapes and a DJ backing him up. He gives a pretty good performance missing the old with a still salsa flavored rap here and there. It sounds different than anything else this afternoon. The third band I’ve never heard of and neither has my Spanish friend and she isn’t excited by the relatively tame merengue and neither am I.

Unfortunately, “serioius Salsero” Jerry Rivera is taking forever to get it together as well. Two OK songs to start are followed by a very misjudged segment where he brings up a girl from the audience and sings to her. I know you and I have seen this a million times. I’ve seen both Julio and his son Enrique Iglesias as well as a countless litany of R&B and hip hop singers so here’s the rule: from now on the O’Jays and only the O’Jays are allowed to do it.

Rivera puts the set in jeopardy but he will pull it out because a) he is a ripe luscious looking guy -though he might wanna cut back on the pork chops and 2) he has a great vvoice -easily the strongest vocalist on show today. Still it isn’t till 45 minutes into this hour and a bit show that it actually takes off during a terrific cover of a Frank Ruiz song. Rivera did an album of Ruiz covers a coupla years ago and it was a big hit so he knows his stuff and he is on fire -the vague otherness, the strange sucking up to the adoring chicks, the misjudged set list is finally put to bed and the great thing about dance concerts is it’s easy to see when the audience like it. If they’re dancing they like it and they’re dancing now. The last song before the one song encore is his smash “Amores Como El Neustro” -you might thing you don’t know it but you’d recognize the horns from Shakira’s sample on “Hips Don’t Lie” – and he gets all of it. He even takes his leather jacket off!!

Further to comments a coupla days ago about the difficulty of getting into Summerstage. I got there at 230p and had no trouble for a 3p start but fiveish during a break in sets I wandered down to the gate. The line was endless and they had stopped letting people in. I wonder if anybody knew that?

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