February 2006

Te deseo suerte

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Paulo FG y su elite
Presented by Billy Bryans Productions
February 19, 2006The Mod ClubToronto
Paulo FG, aka Pablo Alfonso Fernandez Gallo
Master performer and Seducer of audiences
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
Waiting for the performances to begin, some of the audience watched the videos of couples dancing casino on Cuban television provided by www.muchoswing.com, while others danced casino themselves — and despolete, shaking on the spice.

The opening act of Iré Omó Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble provided an interesting contrast to the videos, a sort of switch-back to the roots of Cuban popular dance, ritualistic santeria dance. It was an interesting performance with dancers in bright traditional costumes representing the Orishas (or gods) accompanied by drumming and chants.

Then it was back to more videos and music while a growing crowd danced and waited for Paulo FG y su elite, one of Cuba’s top timba bands throughout the last decade. Two of the songs on Paulo FG’s newest CD have made it into the Cuban top ten. This was Paulo’s first performance ever in Toronto, and it started just a little bit late, perhaps fashionably so (apparently some of the musicians and/or the cabbie got lost on the way).

To the delight of everyone present, Paulo FG y su elite started off their show with the title song from their new CD, Un poquito de to. With his handsome looks, his expert moves, infusive energy and seemingly effortless singing Paulo created such a powerful presence that although there were twelve bandmembers with him, it was Paulo, centre stage in every way, who commanded the crowd’s attention and kept it for the next two hours. Suavely, he shed his velvet jacket, and looked, momentarily, like he might just throw it to his 'admiradoras'. But no — remember that word: Suave. High energy, yet suave. Instead, he pitched himself towards the crowd in his stunningly bright white shirt, sparking shrieks from some of its female members.

Paulo’s sister, on back-up vocals radiated vitality, dancing and smiling ceasely for the entire two-hour performance yet failing to divert even the men’s attention away from Paulo for long. His other back-up vocalist was just that. Not that these vocalists don’t sing well, but the rhythmic interplay of voices that I love so much in Cuban music was largely absent.

Paulo’s voice was unfaltering. Always spot on, like him, always sure and steady, whether rising, falling, turning or stretching out — where he really shows his strength as a singer. He is totally in the moment and an adept improviser, his voice moving with ease from melody to rhythm. His band gave new meaning to the word tight and moved flawlessly through numerous gear changes. Besides the back-up vocalists, stand-up electric bass, drums, congas and other percussion there were two keyboards, two trombones and two trumpets in the band on this night. The music was continuous, from the moment the concert began until its end, moving from song to song with no gaps.

The music of Paulo FG is of the newest Cuba style, timba, created mainly from a mixture of Cuban styles like rumba, son and bolero and incorporating the influence of calypso, reggaeton and rock. As the song says 'Un poquito de todo', a little bit of.... everything, a fusion. It’s sharp-edged, exciting and modern, mostly fast-paced but with room for the romantic voice. And of course, it’s irresistably danceable.

Paulo FG y su elite played all of the pieces from their new CD and a few others, ending the evening citing again the names of the Orishas, Oshun, Yemaya and Chango — and laying himself, singing, at the feet of three dancing girls from the audience.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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