A Manu Chao concert is a religious experience.
I don’t mean it in the hackneyed, spiritual New-Age sense. What I mean is that at some point during the show you’ll find yourself dancing and sweating harder than you thought possible, and just as you get light-headed from lack of hydration and think you’re gonna fall to your knees, you get a burst of adrenaline that keeps you pogoing for the rest of the epic set. The next morning, your legs hate you, but your heart and soul thank you.
This was my experience in the summer of 2007 at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. At just shy of three hours, it remains the longest concert set I’ve ever witnessed in person. The encore alone was 45 minutes and ended with the audience rushing the stage to dance alongside the band.
It’s this ultra-energetic, supremely charismatic and unbelievably consistent live show that has elevated French-born Manu Chao and his backing band, Radio Bemba Sound System, to their worldwide legendary status. And for the second time in a decade, this multicultural and multilingual group is captured on a comprehensive live CD. And this time, that album is accompanied by a DVD.
Baionarena is the most thorough piece of official Manu Chao music history out there. The two CDs sound great, capturing a 33-song set live from Bayonne, France in 2008; in addition to the set, the DVD features a 30-minute tour diary video. The DVD has two audio options: stereo and 5.1 speaker setup, for you audiophiles out there.
You don’t have to know Chao’s songs to get the experience. When I saw Manu and his band live in the summer of 2007, I’d only heard one album (the amazing Clandestino). In that way, Baionarena can work as a great introduction for newbies not familiar with the group’s hybrid of Latin, rock, ska, and world music tunes. It’s definitely worth purchasing for longtime fans who have experienced Chao and company live.
Standout tracks include “Tumba”, “Clandestino”, “Hamburger Fields/Merry Blues”, and “Dia Luna, Dia Pena”.