Manu Chao’s music isn’t mind blowing. The songs are far from original, leaning more toward a poppy little combo of punk rock and reggae than rythm-heavy world music, which is what it could and probably should be.
Nonetheless, the show at the Tijuana bullring in Las Playas Tuesday night was pretty damn good. Had the show gone on at the Embarcadero in San Diego as originally planned, I’m sure I wouldn’t be writing the same rave review. A San Diego Manu Chao show would have been boring. The band would have jammed out a quick, quiet set before being kicked off the stage at 9:45 p.m., minutes before Coronado’s uppity residents reached for their phones to call the noise Nazi.
Tijuana, on the other hand, came through Tuesday night with its dependable mix of fun-chaos-burgeoning-on-horrible-disaster vibe. The place was packed. Kids, mostly young kids with glossy eyes and dread heads, piled into the dusty ring right in front of the stage hours before the show started. As soon as the band bounced into the spotlight, the fleshy mass started swirling and whirling in two distinct mosh pits. My friend, a huge styrofoam tequila and coke in hand, pointed to the circles with a smile.
“They look like boobs,” he said.
I think they looked more like devilish little eyes, peering out at those of us who were either too old, too lazy or too scared to go down into the pit. A few times during the show, a shirtless dude managed to clear out his own little circle amid the chaos by wielding a huge flaming baton then sucking in karosene and breathing out a gigantic ball of fire. That shit would never fly in San Diego!
Anyway, by the third encore, I couldn’t take it anymore. My friend and I made our way to the dusty underland, pushed our way through the mosh pit and immediately got sucked in by Manu Chao’s almost tangible charisma. During the last few songs, a little studded-jacket wearing teen managed to make his way on stage. A guard eventually went after him, but Manu Chao pushed him away and let his new little friend do the standard punk dance. Elbows flying, feet stomping — it wasn’t long before two other little punks pushed their way on stage and joined the fun.