LA LEY “Re-Tour” @ The Paul Paul Theater/The Big Fresno Fair, Fresno CA 10/12/14
This was a special show for us. It had been 11 or 12 years since Erica and myself had last seen the legendary La Ley in a live setting, and it has been almost 10 years since the group had broken up. Never would I have thought that the group would reunite, never EVER would I have believed that they would play Fresno, cow-poke country that most rock acts avoid like the plague. Ok maybe I’m exagerating. But why are they so important? Like I had previously written in the 2001 review, La Ley were/are one of the big four of latin rock, Grammy and Billboard award winners, providing upbeat dance rock in three languages. The best comparisons I can make are INXS and Duran Duran in their prime – catchy rock that you could dance to. Now add latin rhythms, upbeats on the high-hat, sick bass grooves, new wave synths, and a golden voice that’s a cross between Frank Sinatra and Simon LeBon.
So this was our first time seeing a show at The Big Fresno Fair. And let me tell you, it was a pain in the ass gaining admission (buy your admission tickets ahead of time!) and actually finding the venue within the fair grounds. It was tricky locating the theater and just as tricky gaining access. Maybe it was a low-profile show night, but staff and signage were virtually non-existent. So we were already a bit irked but finally made our way into the venue as Belanova began their set. The Paul Paul is a standard amphitheater set up, however there were no actual seats per se, merely rows and rows of metal bleachers with the seat numbers stamped on the metal backing. Some patrons weren’t in the respective, tiny-ass spots, so we had to tell a couple to scoot the hell over. Irksome. We were seated in the first row, stage right, behind the Pit/VIP area. Great vantage point but it would have been cool to score some of the VIP tickets. As we sat through Belanova’s set I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable and I missed my kids. I actually thought, “hmm, would it be so bad to go home right now?” The Paul Paul Theater was filling up and it was impressive to see this kind of support for a group that has been out of the public eye for 9 years, and in cow-poke country no less. Opening act Belanova was well received, their bubble gum electro-pop going over well. They have a number of popular singles and much of the crowd recognized the songs, danced and sang along. Belanova weren’t really my thing – too sweet, too poppy. But a good portion of the crowd was enjoying their set and helped make for a festive mood. Denisse Guerrero is an interesting singer – squeaky voiced and demure (at least she tried to be demure), but she also looked just a bit uncomfortable, and she almost fell over during the set as she gingerly traversed the stage in her tall platforms. Regardless, the tunes were catchy and the group delivered. The group played a generous 45 minute set. Selections included “Baila Mi Corazon,” “No Me Voy a Morir,” “Cade Que,” and “One, Two, Three, Go!”
Just before La Ley’s opening number, I looked back and could see that about 3/4 of the venue was full, it may have been more, hard to tell. Capacity for The Paul Paul is 5000, so it was awesome that these two groups could bring in a crowd of at least 3500 fans. What seemed like the entire house rose to it’s feet as the group took the stage, opening with “Dia Cero” – one of the big singles off their best loved work, INVISIBLE. Girls were going crazy – dancing, cheering, singing, etc. The row behind us was especially vocal and it made for a fun gig. They were loud, they sang out of tune, but it didn’t matter, they were having the time of their lives and I couldn’t help but smile. During the intro to “Hombre,” one of the girls shouted “OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS SOOOOONG!!!!” I was freaking out. Yards away one of my favorite groups was performing to a local crowd, my crowd. Wow, I thought…that’s Beto Cuevas…and Pedro…and Mauricio!!! And they performed as if they had never abandoned the stage 9 years ago. The group was tight, executed each song perfectly, and got the majority of the crowd going. I say majority because in the center-right section, rows 3-8, a large cluster of fans either sat through the performance (while EVERYONE else stood) or they didn’t even applaud between songs. Those people looked like they were waiting for rectal exams or something…pensive, anxious or sedated. Erica looked over and said “that’s what it was like last night,” referring to the Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias show she attended the night before with her sister. Evidently the LA crowd was very lame and boring during Enrique’s set, visibly frustrating him throughout his performance. At this show, hopefully that cluster of lame-asses doesn’t prevent the group from ever returning to the valley. They never come here. If you want to sit down in your seat, fine. But at least show some support and applaud. The group did a superb job. Each song flew over with intensity, precision and heart. The vocals were golden as usual, Beto Cuevas hasn’t lost ANY of the magic. I was still in disbelief, witnessing the group perform again and in close proximity. And hearing those songs live once again conjured up memories from over a decade ago and we couldn’t help but feel sentimental. Connection.
Beto Cuevas was deeply moved by the reception and applause the group received. He regularly thanked the crowd after each number and he was very talkative in general, taking the time to introduce the songs and play with the audience members. Although considered a celebrity and a heart-throb, Cuevas is by no means a conceited rock star with a superiority complex – quite the contrary. Cuevas is a very down to earth and humble performer, making him all the more likable, and the appreciative and moving stage banter was proof of that. I’m thinking they were nervous about this gig, nervous about the turn out, Fresno is an untested market for them after all. My hope is that this great turn out inspires the group to book the Saroyan or a similar venue for future dates. During the set I spoke briefly with security about ending time. I didn’t realize that Fresno city ordinance dictated a noise curfew at 10pm. The group began their set at 9pm! I turned to Erica in disbelief, and she said rather dryly “…it’s the fair.” I said “Damn it, no wonder these seats were 30 bucks and not 60.” As the group ended their main set, they said their goodbyes and exited while the lights remained off. It was 9:50pm and group had only performed 10 or so songs, leaving a good deal of beloved classics unplayed. The crowd grew restless, chanted “OTRA! OTRA!’ and pounded on the metal bleachers. To our amazement, the group came back out with only a few minutes left before noise curfew and eased into a surprising cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” in Spanish…and it sounded amazing! The guitar sound was perfect, Pedro Frugone was playing a Fender Strat with this smoldering tone to it, it sounded sexy, kid you not. It was a surprisingly good cover, but I was disappointed that a standard encore wasn’t chosen. In a shocking move, the band continued to play, nose curfew be damned. The group played four more songs, making for a semi-complete performance and ultimately ending with a devastatingly awesome rendition of “El Duelo.” If I had any complaints it was about Pedro Frugone’s volume. From our vantage point he was too low in the mix. La Ley guitar parts add color and texture to the songs, and some of that was missing this night, but no biggie. Mauricio Clavaria’s drums sounded great with great attack and tone. Clavaria dropped DW and was once again playing Yamaha drums, using a Club Custom kit in black swirl. Archie Frugone was once again playing bass for the group and it was hard to recognize him at first. A keyboard player rounded out the touring lineup. I can’t believe we saw these guys again. I’m glad we made the trip and stayed for the show. I hope they come back again. All the songs sounded great with highlights for me being 1-800 Dual, I’ve never seen it performed live before. The new song “Olvidar” was well received and sounded like a worthy new offering. There is reportedly a new album in the works. It will be interesting to see if the group has more classics to offer.
Prisioneros De La Piel
Tejedores De Ilusion
Fuera De Mi
Sin Ti (Wicked Game, Chris Isaak cover)