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Pop Music Review

Paez Rocks On With Argentine Spirit

September 16, 2000|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

To understand the music of Fito Paez, you need to understand the idiosyncratic spirit of his native Argentina. Petulant, nostalgic, viscerally emotional and rigidly intellectual all at the same time, the Argentine is a walking contradiction, a melancholy European soul trapped in the body of a South American citizen.

On Thursday at the Conga Room, Paez captured this sensibility in a riveting performance that was made even more celebratory by the fact that he had won two Latin Grammys the night before.

Backed by a nine-piece band that included a jazzy horn section, the singer sat at the piano and played songs from his latest record, "Abre." The Phil Ramone-produced collection favors a harder, rockish sound while taking a sobering look at some of the less pleasant aspects of life in Latin America.

"Al Lado del Camino" (the Grammy winner in the rock song and rock male vocal categories) is one of the most original Latin songs of the year, a confessional slice of pop-rock in which Paez lists all the influences that shaped his bohemian nature.

Paez then delighted the crowd with selections from his vast catalog of hits, from the tango-inflected ballad "11 y 6" to the Paul McCartney sound-alike "A Rodar La Vida."

At the end of the show, Paez spent a good five minutes asking the crowd to quiet down before stepping away from the microphone and launching into a haunting, a cappella version of "Vengo A Entregar Mi Corazon" (I Come to Offer You My Heart), his personal hymn of hope and redemption. As he finished the tune, the club was temporarily suspended in an unusual moment of complete silence. "You see?" Paez said in Spanish, a big grin on his face. "Not everything is lost."

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