JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

June 30, 2011
American Airlines Center
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Michael Insuaste

Mana

Curiosity is one of those unexplained 'needs' of human nature where the desire to explore the unknown comes at the most unexpected times. My 'need-to-know' moment got the best of me when I discovered the 'Bon Jovi of Mexico' was performing a sold-out show at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. You've got to be kidding, right? After I made several phone calls to people asking if they had ever heard of the rock band Mana (I had to actually spell it out every time), no one had a clue what I was talking about. That's all I needed to know. With curiosity definitely piqued, I had to check it out. Imagine my surprise when I found out the real anomaly among the 17,000 strong at this show was yours truly.

I've never been a fish out of water when it comes to rock music. However, when it came to this particular brand of rock, I was floundering. Literally, I stood out like a sore thumb among the thousands of Latinos excited that their heroes were making an appearance in Dallas. When I wondered out loud (under my breath really) if anybody spoke English here, the comment caught the attention a beautiful Latina dressed to the nine's sitting next to me. She looked over at me and said yes, then started laughing. When I explained to her I'd never heard of Mana, she quickly corrected my pronunciation of the band (Ma-NA). When I asked her it this was indeed the Bon Jovi of Mexico, again she started laughing and said, "Ma-NA is Ma-NA!" By then her equally beautiful companion joined the conversation. When I told them I knew everything about Gringo rock and roll, both women couldn't stop laughing. After the girls rattled off something in Spanish to each other, the one closest to me said they would guide me through the evening's festivities. Now all I had to do was take my eyes off them and concentrate on the mission at hand.

I asked my volunteers which songs Mana sang in English. Polite smiles and a soft voice told me not to worry about the words. It was the music that would be doing the talking to me this evening. They were right. When the lights went down and the cheers went up, this sold-out crowd was ready to dance, and sing in espanol, which they did in abundance. The music did indeed speak a language anyone could understand. The words to the songs however, let's just say that no English passed through the lips of lead singer, and Latin heart throb, Fher Olvera.

Let me tell you, when this place erupted, the noise was deafening. When it was time to quiet down, they did that too. It was especially evident when roadies, dressed as Franciscan monks, walked through the aisles swinging lamps of smoking incense to cleanse the crowd. Obviously it had something to do with the new ballad the band was singing , "Sister Maria" ("Sor Maria"). I'm sure there was some kind of forbidden spiritual love associated with the song, but it flew right over my head. And I wasn't about to insult my companions by asking about it either.

There is very little pomp and circumstance with Mana. Their interpretation of rock music is certainly different than the one I'm used to hearing. The first half of the 23-song show was a mixture of the band's hits from previous releases, and four singles from the new album. The set list even included the remake of "El Espejo" (also on the new recording) that previously appeared on a disc Mana released when it was known as Sombrero Verde. I know the set list is at the bottom of the page, but that doesn't mean I knew one tune from the other this evening. My helpers were well-versed in everything Mana. It was easy to identify the group's biggest hits. All it took was a few notes from the guitar trickling out over the sound system, or even a wailing harmonica, and this audience began cheering loudly.

Let me tell you, when this place erupted, the noise was deafening. When it was time to quiet down, they did that too. It was especially evident when roadies, dressed as Franciscan monks, walked through the aisles swinging lamps of smoking incense to cleanse the crowd. Obviously it had something to do with the new ballad the band was singing , "Sister Maria" ("Sor Maria"). I'm sure there was some kind of forbidden spiritual love associated with the song, but it flew right over my head. And I wasn't about to insult my companions by asking about it either.

One of the fun things to do as the music played, was to figure out what English speaking rock bands Mana reminded me of. For instance, the second song of the evening sounded a lot like a Spanish version of The Police hit, "Message in a Bottle". I actually asked my friends if indeed, the band had remade the classic hit. They assured me it wasn't The Police, but one of Mana's first international hits, "Listen My Love" ("Oye Me Amor"). When I thought I heard bits and pieces of music from The Police hit, "Spirits in a Material World" two songs later, once again my translators assured me I was hearing, "Send Me a Sign," ("Manda Una Senal") that again, had nothing to do with The Police. So far, anything remotely sounding like Bon Jovi, was striking out in favor of Sting, Andy and Stewart.

My proudest moment of the night - besides lucking out with my Mana mentors - was actually recognizing a song performed on stage. At one point about midway through the show, a guest musician joined fellow guitarist Sergio Vallin on stage. As the two traded licks on their instruments, I said, "Wow! That sounds like a Santana song!" When my erstwhile companions looked at me with a bit of shock on their face, imagine my surprise when they said yes. The tune, "Corazon Espinada," was written by Fher Olvera for Santana's brilliant 1999 release, Supernatural. That album would go on to sell 27 million units worldwide and give Carlos Santana a No. 1 album, 28 years after his previous chart topping classic, 1971's Santana III.

Though there was no intermission this evening, the song "It Costs Me" ("Me Vale"), literally kicked off the second half of the show with Mana guitarist Vallin kicking his guitar playing up a notch. Drummer Alex Gonzalez then found his third and fourth gears, and launched into a drum solo behind his impressive drum set. The group's touring band, quietly tucked away in the back corners of the sprawling stage, also got into the action. Three more songs from Mana's breakthrough masterpiece, Where the Children Will Play (Donde Jugaran Los Ninos), and a host of other No. 1 hits from the group's catalogue, ended the evening. The encore saw the band perform two more immensely popular songs, "Shared Lips" ("Labios Compartidos") and "At the San Blas Pier" ("En El Muelle De San Blas"). The music provided the perfect going away presents to satisfy a happy, yet exhausted crowd.

Overall, the show was quite enjoyable. However, there were two things about the evening that bothered me. The first was all the Mexican flags waved throughout the night. It is one thing to be proud of your heritage, but to drape yourself in the flag of another country when you are a United States citizen, especially at a concert, is going too far. The other incident that really ticked me off was Fher Olvera. He couldn't contain his joy in announcing Mexico's recent 4-2 victory over the U.S. to win the Gold Cup soccer trophy. The audience erupted in cheers over his observation, but left me shaking my head with this one thought. The biggest travesty about illegal immigration is the very fact "illegals" have absolutely no loyalty to this country. Latin people will protest en masse in cities throughout the United States demanding immigration reform, yet they don't care to learn our language or our history. These people defiantly wave their Mexican flags, demanding justice, while mocking this great nation every chance they get. It was a very sad sight to behold, and something Olvera didn't need to do.

Outside of those perceived slights, Mana proved to be the real deal. I couldn't hear the music, but I could definitely feel it. Every culture, in a way, needs their heroes. This band out of Guadalajara, Mexico has proudly carried the weight of an entire nation on its shoulders for the past 25 years. I didn't need anyone to translate the heartfelt love the audience had for their rock stars. But it didn't hurt to ask, especially from where I was standing.

Set List:
Lluvia al Corazon
Oye Mi Amor
De Pies A Cabeza
Manda Una Senal
Eres Mi Religion
El Espejo
Sor Maria
Vuela Libre Paloma
Rayando el Sol
Mariposa Traicionera
Latinoamerica
Corazon Espinado
Me Vale
Drum Solo
Unplugged Melody: Donde Jugaran Los Ninos, Se Me Olvido Otra Vez, Te Llore un Rio, Ojala Pudiera Borrarte
Si No Te Hubieras Ido
Vivir Sin Aire
Como Te Deseo
Dejame Entrar
Clavado En Un Bar

Encore:
Labios Compartidos
En El Muelle De San Blas