Thursday, July 14, 2005

La Somerset Bamba

Last night, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Exotika -- a cheap and cheerful cafe on Villiers Street next to Charing Cross that excels at simple, unfussy meals from across the world, from Mexican beef fajitas through Moroccan couscous salad to Thai cod and egg noodles -- then sauntered over to Somerset House on The Strand for their open-air courtyard concert featuring Orishas and Los Lobos.

I've seen Orishas before, at the Royal Festival Hall a few months back, and tonight their electrifying Cuban hip hop exhilerated once again. I never get bored of their mix of traditional Latin and urban street sounds.

Los Lobos were a complete surprise. Not having heard from them since the La Bamba days in the 1980s, I had few expectations until yesterday morning when I heard their new album, The Ride, for the first time.

A laid-back rootsy affair, The Ride features wonderfully soulful collaborations with Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Bobby Womack and Richard Thompson. Surprise number one was that the album was a rather sombre affair, full of yearning and heartbreak -- not the jolly sounds of the 80s that I remember shunning. Surprise number two was that last night's performance was all flaming guitars, pounding drums and fiery lights -- an altogether grittier and heavier atmosphere than I was led to expect from The Ride. With their long electric guitar solos, they sounded like a 70s heavy metal band straining to escape their Tex-Mex, blues, rock 'n' roll and lumberjack-shirted bulk.

We danced all night long. In short, I really enjoyed myself!

Photos on Flickr soon.

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