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Radio City Music Hall, August 27

I was psyched: my first GK live show, I had my sign for handing out coupons I'd made of GK web sites (#2 on the list: you guessed it!), and my Manitas de Plata Flaming Flamenco album I've had for almost 30 years which I was going to try to get everyone to sign.

The show was supposed to start at 8; my brother (a GK neophyte) and I got there about 7:30. I checked with the manager about handing out coupons and he said "No solicitation allowed." I showed him one, that no one was making any money, that the people who had the web sites didn't even know I was doing this, but no go. He sympathized with me and said he didn't make the rules, but he couldn't let me do it. The only people who could advertise were corporate sponsors, namely Mercedes Benz, who had some model or other in the lobby I didn't even bother to look at. Not having several million $$ at hand, and not wishing to be thrown out, I thought it best not to try :-o

So slight disappointment #1 :-(

But there were other things to look at, like the signed Takamine guitar that had been used for the sound check (no wonder: it was horribly out of tune!) and which the band had donated for a silent auction with proceeds for some children's charity!!! All the names were there: Nicolas, Tonino, Andres, Pablo with a flower he'd drawn underneath his name, Canut, and Patchai, who had written "Amitier Patchi des Gipsy Kings" with some flowers drawn underneath his inscription. Nobody had bid on it yet (bidding started at $500, with $200 increments), and I am very proud to report that I was the first!!! :-))))) I can also report that mine was not the high bid (a doctor bought it for $1700!) :-)))))))

Radio City has 6000 seats: a huge orchestra area and 3 mezzanines at the back of the theater. I was in the last row of the VIP section off the orchestra, 20 rows back from the orchestra pit, in the center (Forgot binoculars. Nuts!). About 200 people were seated in the pit, which was at the level of the front orchestra seats. These had to have been by invitation only. My impression is that about 95% of the orchestra was filled, but I couldn't see any of the mezzanines except for the first few rows. A lot of people dressed up (men in suits - could be coming from work? - and women in dresses, but here and there people in jeans and shirts).

Show started about 8:30. Playlist and impressions follow.

  1. La Dona - purple lights facing audience, a giant backdrop with 3-4 upright guitars. Usual line-up, with Pacheco, Mickael, Negrito, and Dominique (stage R to L) on a raised platform. I noticed Friday night that there were symbols painted on the front of the platform, in particular a bird's head (maybe a raven) between where Nicolas and Tonino were. Incredibly loud. Audience seated for this number and the next 4!!!

  2. La Fiesta Comenza - I don't remember what the lighting set-up was for the remainder of the show, but there were different backdrops (one with lots of little lights resembling stars, one with a NYC skyline, others I don't remember, once in a while dry ice "smoke" with lights reflected off it) and the obligatory flashing colored lights on fast songs. The audience would be lit from the stage at appropriate places (todos todos todos OLE!). Audience remained seated, except for a gypsy (I'll describe him later) in about the fifth row stage-left who was playing maracas above his head!

  3. Djobi Djoba (Canut) - I don't remember what everyone was wearing, sorry. By the end of this song, it was obvious there were serious sound problems and the sound guy a) couldn't fix it, or b) couldn't care less about it. He had 2 settings: really loud and louder. I'm sorry to relate the answer was b, because the entire show was exceedingly loud, and by the time they got to Bem Bem Maria and Bamboleo it was deafening. More on this later. (The audience was still seated. What the h--- was going on here?)

  4. Recuerdo Apasionado - first of three Tonino tunes. This has not been mentioned before, so maybe he's playing different numbers for different shows? I admit I can't recognize all the instrumentals as well as the vocals, but I'm right on this because I - well, let's say I've listened to it repeatedly.

  5. Un Amor - instant recognition by the audience. Patchai extended his arm to Nicolas to acknowledge him at the end. BTW, Georges appeared to be the spokesman for the band, saying "Thank you" (in English) at the end of every song and identifying the lead singer or Tonino by name.

  6. Oy - with the opening chords, the entire theater rose en masse, and it was party-time after that! I hadn't realized before that Andre and Nicolas also sang on this.

  7. Gitano Soy - it's the new one on Love Songs. Live it's unbelievably good. Nicolas sang lead, Andre backup, and they both did the quick handclaps.

  8. Ama Bei Bei Bei

  9. Todos todos todos

  10. Baila Me

    Not much to say about the last three, except that the place was really hopping.

During the intermission, I talked with the lighting man about the sound level and he said that a lot of other people had the same comment. Since he was wearing a headset I asked him to contact the soundman. Either he didn't, or the sound guy didn't care, which I tend to believe.

Second set:

  1. Definitely NOT Mosaique, and I'm not sure what it was. Upon repeated listening (it's coming, it's coming) I can say that it IS identical to maybe the last 30 seconds of Tierra Gitana, but the beginning and middle unlike the recorded version of Tierra Gitana. Setup identical to what others have reported (Georges on cajon - (way too loud, almost drowning out Tonino), Pacheco drum, Tonino, Mickael standing playing a shaker of some sort). Starry backdrop with low lights. Bet this didn't happen at your show: during Pacheco's solo, when he was hitting the drum with his elbows, the mic fell off!!

  2. Lo Gitano Viejo - best song of the night, because although it was loud, you just can't jack up acoustic guitars so they're overpowering! I really wish they'd do more like this, in the style of the Allegria CD.

  3. Montana - rest of the band returned. Gerard played an upright electric bass for the entire show. At one point in the song - he didn't have a solo or anything - the bass was so loud it made my body vibrate.

  4. Viento del Arena - huh??? My impression exactly, but there it was: Nicolas with the li-li-li-li-lis, the percussion with that unmistakable beat, synthesizer wailing like it does in the beginning, but all of a sudden there were the words to Mira La Itana Mora!!! Very very cool.

  5. Salsa de Noche - last of the instrumentals. Andre played a really fast riff before Tonino started. I think Nicolas was sitting down on the platform playing Pacheco's drum for this, because Canut was walking around and ended up between Andre and Tonino at one point. I might add that he did not appear moody at all during the whole show.

  6. Yo Soy Aquel - Patchai left before this, to return for...

  7. Mi Nino - from here on out it was nonstop frenzy from the crowd. Canut really got into things, moving around alot, and doing a side-step kind of dance while shaking his shoulders behind Patchai! Which meant he was really up for...

  8. A Tu Vera - Nicholas left for this one. But was back for...

  9. Bem Bem Maria - as I mentioned before, by now the sound was deafening. I must have been the only one in the theater without earplugs. My brother had brought some for himself, having seen ELP and Yes at two shows earlier this summer. He wore them the whole show, but said even with them it was pretty loud.

  10. Bamboleo (encore) - not much to say about this. But I thought it was really cool that Nicolas stayed on stage until everyone else had left and then said "Muchas gracias, y buenas noches" while waving to the crowd.

So that was my first Gipsy Kings concert. What a shame it was less than perfect because of one person. We waited until the theater was practically empty before we tried to leave, then went over to talk to the sound guy. Then we thought better of it (he couldn't have cared less anyway), but noticed on one of his cases that someone had put a piece of 1" adhesive tape and written "Helen Keller Audio" on it! He probably felt honored!

I got my album signed by everyone except Georges (but it took two nights!), met some interesting people, Canut's blond was glued to him when he left the theater Friday night but not Thursday, and for Fernando, Efren, and Bob, in answer to my question of when he was going to record a solo album, Maestro said "Despues."


Did anyone happen to notice what I didn't say about the show? That's right! NO PBs!!! No women dancing on stage during any part of the show, in fact you couldn't get to the stage from the theater. Thursday night people moved down to occupy seats closer to the stage, and there was dancing in the aisles. Not so on Friday, when the ushers would not let people occupy the aisles and kept them from moving up.

I'd asked one of the people guarding the signed guitar where the stage door was and she told me. So after the show we went over there. There were 2 vans about 6 feet apart, and metal barriers all around. Lots of security personnel. I walked up to the guy "guarding" the space between the vans, pulled out my album, and told him about Manitas being Tonino's uncle and Jose being everyone elses father and that I wanted to get everyone to sign it. He looked at me with raised eyebrow like "Are you kidding me?" but then decided I was legit and said he'd help me, but I had to wait across the street. So we were waiting there a few minutes, and the guy who'd bought the guitar arrived, with his wife holding a really cool poster that was part of the deal, which they wanted to get signed. Also noticed a couple of about-17yo boys, but no-one else. Above the stage door a window was open, lights on, people milling around, apparently this is where people who had backstage passes went. After a few more minutes, I look up and I see the back of, could it be? Yes! It's Tonino! Then he turns around and looks out the window. I called out to him and held up the album (it's got a picture of Manitas on the front), he recognized it and made a motion with his hand like he would sign it. Then he left and Paul and Andre came to the window with Paul leaning out. I held the album up for him, he pointed at it like he recognized it also, but he may have also been pointing at the guy with guitar, who was holding it up. Well, the guy with the guitar ended up going upstairs, and I gave the album to his wife who said she'd get it signed by the band. (Yes, I got it back!) About this time the gypsy who'd been in the front of the theater showed up. He was wearing black jeans, black jacket with colorful patches, and a huge black cap with loads of silver jewelry pinned on it. Paul seemed to recognize him and may have invited him up (don't recall exactly). So after a few minutes everyone comes downstairs and the band starts coming out. The lady with my album was standing by the stage door so I was keeping an eye on her. But in a little bit I looked around, and here was somebody standing by the van's passenger door wearing a white shirt and a black pony-tail! AND, Canut is talking to a BLOND woman wearing a dress who reaches up and kisses him after a few minutes and then leaves. Now, I will tell you here that I saw Canut leaving the stage door Friday with a(nother?) blond glued to his side, and I think she's the one others have seen him with. If I got a picture of them, it was from their back. After she left, these two kids started talking with him. By now I'd got the album back, it had several signatures, Patchai was approaching and I asked him to sign it which he did. Canut had gotten in the van, I could see Tonino in one seat slumped against the side of the van, and I tried to get closer to get them to sign, but the security guy said "GET AWAY!" So I was standing there feeling disappointed and this gypsy guy came up and I showed him the album. HE recognized Manitas and started telling me about the relationships and I said "I know, I've had this for about 30 years and I'm trying to get it signed." So he yells into the open van, in gitano/spanish, that I've had this for 30 years (treinta an~os) and then Canut raps on the window to pass it in! So he and Tonino and Mickael signed! And with that I thought I had everybody's signature so we left. But there was more to come, like another night where hopefully the sound would be better. I was not disappointed, and you can read about it Man~ana.