Bomba Estéreo @ Hackney Empire — 15th July| 17 July, 2010
At some point a switch was made. Céu, the brazilian songstress, was originally listed as headlining this event, but things change, and for this event that meant Céu taking the early spot and Bomba Estéreo seeing us well into the nighttime. There’s a few possible reasons for this, namely that Bomba Estéreo have been going down a storm on the festival circuit and getting plenty of recognition for their debut international release Blow Up, as well as the fact that the Colombian bicentennary is round the corner and this is quite a nice tie-in, but I think the main reason they should have been headlining this event is because they perfect the mix of dance and traditional styles as good as anyone is doing right now. The traditional element comes in the snatches of champeta, cumbia and puyo that litter the songs, as well as the presence of Liliana Saumet, who attacks the mic in the style of hip-hop and dancehall deejays but with her own identity, ultimately tied in to where she grew up, Bogotá.
Their album showcased their heavy sound, with songs stacked full of rich, catchy melodies but also with enough room to experiment sonically, and it’s this area where they excel live. The crowd was relatively quiet until the band launched into “La Boquilla” roughly halfway through the concert, at which point everyone rose from their seats and began to shake their hips. One of the key elements of Bomba Estéreo’s sound, which makes them such an interesting act, is the use of guitar. It adds a psychedelic, tropical edge, particularly on “La Boquilla”, and instantly makes you think of early-90s bands such as Stereo MC’s and Happy Mondays. Bands that could get people dancing while also treading differing sonic territories. “Cosita Rica” and “Feelin’” follow shortly after in a second-half of the set which fails to lull. Instead, Liliana seems uplifted by the people now dancing around her and starts to come out of her shell, acting like the raucous female MC which perhaps would feel more comfortable on a makeshift outdoor soundsystem than the regal decor of Hackney Empire’s theatrical environs.
The concert culminates with “Fuego”, a song which has really opened some doors for the band. Live, it’s a tour de force, building with swathes of guitar and thumping beats. It’s a great way to end the set and makes you think that maybe Céu was happy to go on first after all. Following that would not have been easy!
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