La Ley @ The House of Blues, Anaheim CA 09/08/01
Surreal and heart-stopping. That’s the feeling I had when my girl and I stood up against the barrier, first row, for La Ley’s show at the Anaheim HOB. We were on guitarist Pedro Frugone’s side, stage right. We arrived at Downtown Disney super early and it paid off. This would be our second occasion seeing La Ley, but it was the more riveting performance. It was a smaller, more intimate venue, the set was stronger…and we were in the first row!!! The Grammy winning group from Chile had always been popular in the latin rock realm, but now they were starting to break in an even bigger way, their album Uno was a platinum seller in the USA with accessible yet rockin’ music, even if it was in Spanish. Of special note, La Ley does songs in Spanish, English AND French! There was no opener for this show. The place was filled to capacity. Most HOB shows I’ve attended at least had some breathing room. This gig did not. Wall to wall, packed with bodies, mostly younger latin females. The crowd was LOUDER than the band. To those who don’t know, the music can best be described as latin alternative rock with pop sensibilities. Catchy choruses, memorable melodies, short song lengths, etc. It was perfect music for a day at the beach, or a Saturday night out, or a Sunday morning in. However, this band had immense talent. Singer Beto Cuevas was an awesome crooner, whose influences included Frank Sinatra and Simon LeBon of Duran Duran. His voice made the ladies swoon, and the power made the guys rock out. It was a pure, polished sounding voice, golden. You couldn’t help but grab a hair brush and sing along, miming into the microphone (hair brush). Drummer Mauricio Claveria was an exceptional drummer. His influences included greats like Steve Gadd and Neil Peart, and Claveria played a monster double bass kit, complete with splashes and mini-chinas. He could outplay most other alt-rock drummers. Pedro Frugone on guitar created melodic lines and upbeat phrasings. There was no full time basist at this point in the band’s career, however Archie Frugone (Pedro’s brother) filled in on this tour.The music was very melodic with a sprinkle of pop goodness, which was a great contrast to the stylings of Caifanes/Jaguares, Heroes Del Silencio and Mana. La Lay is definitely one of the “Big Four” of modern latin rock.
There were several great moments at this show, unforgettable moments. After a song, Pedro Frugone kneeled down to adjust his effects settings on a pedal board. He was within arm’s reach. I extended my hand and offered a friendly handshake. Frugone looked up at me, gave a broad smile and shook my hand…that was one of the greatest moments ever at a show. The guy next to me followed suit and also received a handshake. What a great moment. My jaw dropped in astonishment. The other cool…yet unsanitary moment, came when Cuevas shook his head like a dog trying to dry itself off. His head was full of sweat, and it flew everywhere. Beads hit the girls in the first couple rows and they squealed in delight. And a bead also landed in my gaping mouth. Whoa…that’s Beto Cuevas’ sweat….
The band was extremely tight, surpassing their performances on record. “Animal” was a great opener, it’s one of their well known tracks, and the tension was slow building, then the energey level fully erupted during the chorus section. The songs were tighter in concert, more energetic, and the singing was effortless and flawless. Cuevas worked the crowd into a frenzy, commanding us and thrilling us like a latin Freddy Mercury. There were two bouncers directly in front of us. As one surveyed the crowd, the other said to him “these guys sound pretty good!” The other bouncer nodded in approval. When the staff can get into it, then clearly some kind of magic is happening. Special moments for me include great renditions of “Tejedores Del Ilusion,” “Prisioneros De La Piel,” and the surprise inclusion of “Every Time” off the Crazy/Beautiful Soundtrack. “Every Time” was a great game changer during the show, it’s an English language ballad…at least I think they performed the English version. Regardless, it provided a gorgeous breather during the show. Of special note was a rare performance of “Vi,” one of my favorites off the Vertigo album. Cuevas introduced the song by saying “…esta tema se llama simplemente…” and he held up his hands, his fingers forming the letters V and I, and the band eased into the rhythmic rocker, it was captivating. We were also treated to two performances of “El Duelo,” a slow tempo arrangement like what’s found on the MTV Unplugged CD, and the traditional rocker used to close the encore section, it was freaking awesome hearing the song twice with different arrangements. The only minor complaint I had was regarding the arrangement of “Doble Opuesto.” That song is one of their key uptempo selections, and unfortunately Frugone played different guitar parts for most of the song. The late Andres Bobe gave that song unique character with his guitar playing, it was crisp, clean and melodic with very little distortion or overdrive…it was a clean fender stratocaster sound. Frugone added his own touch to the song and briskly played overdriven chord patterns. And there was no backing piano track, which also gives this song some of it’s unique flavor. It was cool to see the band abruptly stop “Doble Opuestro” and immediately launch into “Dia Cero.” This was a very awesome show. We witnessed the magic from the first row and we were floored. After it was all over, they practically had to carry us all out on stretchers. Girls were sweaty and ready to pass out, the guys were still pumped and wanted more, it was crazy good. Little did we know that the group would break up in 2005. Thank goodness we caught one of the latin rock greats in their prime. I can’t remember the set order very well, but I’m fairly certain the following songs were performed.
Tejedores De Ilusion
Prisioneros De La Piel
Every Time (Siempre)
Fuera De Mi