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Pop Music Review

El Gran Silencio Is Ready to Wear Mantle

July 09, 2001|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Arriba los Tigres del Norte!" a member of El Gran Silencio shouted boisterously, just before the rock en espanol combo from Monterrey, Mexico, launched into another of its rollicking Colombian vallenato-rap-ranchera-ragamuffin fusions on Saturday at the Greek Theatre.

Clearly, El Gran Silencio is not by any stretch of the imagination a norteno outfit. But judging from its blistering performance as the headliner of the Planeta Rock tour, the quintet might just be the rightful heir to Los Tigres, the biggest norteno group of all, with its crowd-pleasing attitude and unabashed love for Mexico and its traditional music.

El Gran Silencio's new album, the remarkable "Chuntaros Radio Poder," is so far the best Latin rock release of the year, an exhilarating mixture of working-class Latin American genres with random chunks of hip-hop, reggae and arena rock, all of it distilled by the barrio sensibility of the band's leaders, brothers Tony and Cano Hernandez.

Standing onstage with his rectangular glasses, wrinkled short-sleeved shirt and calm, reflective demeanor, Tony Hernandez looked much older than his 30 years. Indeed, the lyrics of his song "El Retorno de los Chuntaros," with its sweet washes of accordion, batucada drums, bouncy cumbia beat and a furious rap exalting the peaceful beauty of Monterrey's neighborhoods, reflect the life experience of an old man, not a young Chuntaro, as the Gran Silencio members like to call themselves.

An instant favorite with the crowd, the band (supplemented by two percussionists and a saxophonist) has achieved a level of musicianship to generate genuine sparks of grandeur. Most important, its show quickly turns into one big party, like one of the earthy celebrations it so vividly describes in its songs.

Colombia's Aterciopelados also accentuated the positive in a delightful, musically mature, but too brief 30-minute set.

The band's evolution has been fascinating to watch: Led by bassist Hector Buitrago and singer Andrea Echeverri, Aterciopelados has ventured into the icy world of electronica, digested its cleansing influence and emerged unscathed, ready to rock 'n' roll.

There was a thematic line in Saturday's performance, from the overpowering optimism of "Luz Azul" to the unbridled generosity of "Uno Lo Mio Y Lo Tuyo" (both from the recently released "Gozo Poderoso" album) and the looks-are-not-everything message of 1998's "El Estuche."

The ethereal, hippie-esque Echeverri exhibited her charismatic stage presence, while her band contributed mysterioso, ambient-tinged variations of the old tunes, adding renewed pleasures to expected hits such as "Florecita Rockera" and "Bolero Falaz."

Los Rabanes, Santos Inocentes and El Haragan also appeared Saturday, the closing date of the eight-city Planeta Rock tour.

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