Manu Chao Is Contagious

September 6th, 2011

Manu Chao – Terminal 5 – September 5, 2011

Singer Manu Chao brought his La Ventura tour to a sold-out crowd last night at Terminal 5, performing in near-perpetual motion. As Chao strummed his guitar, he jumped, danced and struck a multitude of poses without once seeming to plant his feet firmly on the stage. As the international star and his band tore through their first few numbers, singing in a mix of languages (including French, Spanish and Italian) and showcasing the eclectic Latin, French, reggae and punk influences in the music, the energy coming from the stage was intensely contagious. Mosh pits and crowd surfers materialized during more frenetic moments, while during more mellow numbers, many revelers showcased their salsa skills in balcony aisles.

As Chao and his band performed numbers like “Clandestino,” “King Kong Five” and “Que Paso Que Paso,” they wove several soccer-stadium style chants and repeated musical themes into the set, adding a sense of continuity and ensuring that even those unfamiliar with Chao’s music would be singing along by night’s end. A particularly exciting sequence in the show found Chao interspersing “La Primavera” with two of his other big hits, first adding in a portion of “Me Gustas Tu” and then mixing in the upbeat “Bongo Bong,” before completing “La Primavera.”

As Manu Chao’s songs flowed into one another and oscillated from calm to frenzied, the band showed no signs of slowing down, leaving the stage only momentarily and coming back for encore after encore that turned into substantial sets in themselves. “Thank you, New York! Thanks for the energy!” shouted Chao between encores. Before anyone had time to ponder whether the singer was crediting the crowd for contributing to his vast amount of vitality or simply praising us for trying to keep up with him, Chao had launched into another joyful song—no time to catch our breath before joining in on the massive celebration once again. —Alena Kastin