Manu Chao’s shows are the ultimate pot parties.
You don’t even have to roll a joint at home, choose a safe spot away from securities and do two or three puffs in a hurry. Just get as close as you can to the stage and stand there. The second-hand smoke — and, mostly, the power of the music — will hit you like a thunderbolt. That is the case, at least, in cities used to having Manu around.
No Texas cities would be included on that list, but even if his visits to this area have been infrequent, Manu remembers the Lone Star State fondly.
“I have great memories of Austin since we played there with Mano Negra `in 1989`,” the Frenchman said over the phone from Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. Mano Negra was simply the most influential Latin alternative band of all time, and Manu was its heart and soul. But, if you’re familiar with the records, don’t expect much of what you know at the Monday, June 11 Manu Chao show in Austin. Even with his solo stuff (the wonderful Clandestino and the self-derivative but still groovy Próxima Estación: Esperanza), in concert Manu transforms familiar material into a long, never-ending reggae/rock/punk celebratory loop, often changing the melodies and stressing the vibe over the song.
How many Manu-heads (wherever he plays, the legion of fans look and sound like politicized Deadheads) are there in Austin? Enough to fill Stubb’s, which sold out in no time. Weeks after Bush got his way and received billions in additional funding for Iraq, expect Manu to somehow denounce Republicans and Democrats alike for being the piles of shit that they are, but even if you admire David Duke, bring your dancing shoes.
Manu’s next album, La Radiolina, comes out in September, but the new single (“Rainin’ in Paradize”… “Paradize” being the USA, looking and behaving more and more like a Third World country) can be downloaded for free at www.manuchao.net. As Manu told me, “I prefer that my fans copy my CDs instead of giving one cent to iTunes.”
— Enrique Lopetegui