Julieta Venegas concert review

Julieta Venegas at Ace of Spades, Sacramento

Julieta Venegas at Ace of Spades, Sacramento

It was all about the music on Sunday night’s Julieta Venegas’ concert for her Los Momentos tour at Ace of Spades in Sacramento. Venegas has always been a humble artist and never quite fit in with the other pop divas in the Mexican music scene and last night’s show proved, that for her, it’s the music that matters.

With a simple set up with her four musicians, she took to the stage and opened with “Hoy” from her latest album Los Momentos, an album she’s received critical praise but little air play especially on this side of the border. Los Momentos is a richly infused album with electronic pop and piano driven sound which is a departure from her signature pop and accordion style that launched her career in Mexico and much of Latin America.

The crowd was silent and a little stumbled when she opened with “Hoy” a synthesized piano driven song about letting true love in, which was most likely written about her new born daughter, and unless they were die-hard fans, they probably hadn’t heard this catchy tune, which is a shame.  Dressed in a simple pink dress, Venegas addressed the crowd after her second song and told the audience she would be performing more songs from Los Momentos.

With her quiet demeanor, she jumped right back into singing. To some this might be oft-putting, however, she is not one to bring a big spectacle show with outfit changes or backup dancers. She kept it simple throughout the night with the only major changes were her musical instruments from her guitar, piano, and her famous accordion.

The crowd finally started to get into a rhythm when she addressed her audience for “Despedida,” a song she said she wrote about acknowledging a relationship that didn’t work out but accepting and even toasting the end of the relationship just like how it started.

When she played hits from her 2006 album Limón y Sal, the crowed livened especially in “Eres Para Mi.” She let the crowd sing right along with her and smiled when her fans pointed at her when she sang “Tu eres para mi/yo soy para ti” (“You are for me/I’m for you”) and even rapped Anita Tijoux’s part.

Venegas continued to speak throughout the night and told a story of a friend who asked if it was safe to travel to Mexico. “Don’t let fear be the reason you don’t take a chance on doing something,” she told the audience before performing “Vuelve.” Translated into “Return,” the song speaks about her concern with the recent drug-related violence that plagues Mexico.

She picked up her accordion several times throughout her set list including in the crowd pleasing “Me Voy” and “Sin Documentos.” It’s a heavy instrument but she played it so effortlessly even as she danced on the stage.

The show ended with an encore of 2 more songs “Algo Está Cambiando” and “Andar Conmigo,” which the crowd ate up. Although the show seemed brief, it was a modest yet pleasing performance of Venegas, one that not just her die-hard fans would enjoy. She is still on tour and I highly recommend catching her before she heads to South America.

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Discover these foreign bands

Lately I’ve been discovering music not the old fashion way by listening to the radio because, let’s face it, music kind of sucks right now. If people are considering Miley Cyrus a musical genius there is definitely something wrong with the state of music. I have instead relied on my Pandora radio stations to hear artist that I would not find on the local radio stations.  I find myself lately listening and pressing the “like” button to these three bands: Empire of the Sun, The xx, and Kinky. Maybe you’ve heard of these bands since they’ve been around for some time but I can say, with certainty, that I have not heard any of these bands playing on the radio which is probably why I like them even more. If you haven’t heard of them it’s probably because they are foreign (yes, not from the US!) but their music transcends borders. So if you are tired of the current pop music, check out these bands that have gained popularity internationally.

Empire of the Sun is an Australian musical duo formed in 2008 and is mostly known outside of the US (no surprise there!). The band, known for their electronic beats, has two albums “Walking on a Dream” from 2008 and their most recent “Ice on the Dune” released in 2013. They may seem a little weird and out there by their lavish costumes but what really matters is the music they produce which is a little disco, a little electronic, a little pop and a little 80s but satisfyingly rich in unique sounds. Listen to the singles “Walking on a Dream,” “We are the People” and “Alive” to get a feel of what they have to offer and how their sound is unlike anything out right now.

The xx is also another foreign band but with a much different sound than EOTS. This English indie pop band was formed in 2005 and hit the scene with their first album “xx” which gained critical acclaim in the UK and in 2012 released their sophomore effort “Coexist.” Their beats are slow, sometimes giving a melancholy feel but there is also a sexiness to their voices as they come together without being overtly sexual. In the song “Shelter,” singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft sings “Maybe I have said/ Something that was wrong/ Can I make it better/ With the lights turned on,” you aren’t sure if she is referring to sex or something else since she isn’t over sexualizing her voice. One of their more pop songs is “Islands,” which Shakira covered, bassist Oliver Sim’s voice gives it an edgier tone since his voice is a little rougher. Their second album “Coexist” sounds similar to their first but it works and most importantly it is good!

Kinky is a band from Monterrey, Mexico and the majority of their songs are sung in Spanish but they have also recorded a few songs in English and have collaborated with American bands such as the Beastie Boys and American producers. Since forming in 2000, their sound has continued to dominate the electronic Latin music scene with their funky and techno beats. Out of their five albums, “Barracuda” has the best sound with songs “Hasta Quemarnos” (Until We Burn) mixing cumbia with electronic beats. In their album “Reina,”(Queen) their song “A donde van los muertos” (Where do the dead go) lead singer Gilberto Garza begs his muse to die together so they can swim the world together. Although the lyrics are a bit morbid, the music is upbeat making you want to get up and dance until you burn…or not. Their unique sound has made them one of Mexico’s most popular alternative bands for more than a decade, and their music has been featured in US commercials and televisions shows such as “CSI” and “Gossip Girl.”