When it comes to creating the kind of orgiastic rhythmic frenzy that Afro-Caribbean music is best known for, most salsa bands take pride in seducing their audience with a carefully designed crescendo that takes its time in reaching a smoldering climax.
Cuba's Los Van Van take a different approach. They begin with a climax, continue with a climax and end with a climax. The resulting experience is undeniably intense, and at Friday's sold-out performance at the Sportsmen's Lodge, the band was a joy to behold.
Anchored on the funky bass playing of bandleader-composer Juan Formell and the ferocious drumming of his son Samuel, the 15-piece band unleashed vibrant, semi-orchestral soundscapes brimming with majestic layers of violins, rambunctious trombone riffs and cool keyboard chords informed by jazz and hip-hop.
With the excellent Roberto Hernandez taking care of most of the lead vocals, Los Van Van sounded buoyantly relaxed and deliciously tight at the same time, boosted by the presence of new singers Abdell Rosales and Yenisel Valdes.