Centro Habana, 4:45am
There are moments of perfection in a Klimax gig. Moments where what had seemed scrappy and incoherent just seconds earlier, suddenly becomes both transcendent and tangible: something so sublime and solid that you feel you can grab it with your hands - or your hips and your feet. And then you forget everything - their jinetero tecnico who has hit you up for beer every time you've ever seen them play; the drunken tourists behaving badly; the fact that it's 3:30am and you really want to go to bed... then the song ends; they start another, and the whole process starts anew: a cuerpo which leaves you ambivalent at best (what time is it?); puzzled at worst (how can a group of musos this fucking good sound so bad?) before it all gels for a blistering finish. Ah well. Such is the Klimax experience, and it was such at Delirio Habanero tonight.
They started a bit earlier than I had expected (12:50 or so); but after a 50 minute set, Piloto announced a 20 minute break. I talked to singer Juan Carlos for at least 40 minutes before they headed back to the stage.
The show started with the medley they do of Piloto's songs, which includes No me mires a los ojos and Me sube la fiebre - each snippet only serving to make me yearn for the songs in their entirety (they were doing the same medley when I saw them in 2004 - and opening with it then too). They followed this up with - brace yourself - a medley of popular reggaeton hits. Jeez. Piloto, por favor! Every obnoxious song that has dogged me on this holiday all wrapped into one interminable package and played live by a group with great original material. Go figure. Things looked up after that though, with a bunch of songs I'm afraid to say I didn't recognise (except for Mujer de mi vida); but still got me frugging.
Klimax is one of the only remaining bands - at least that I've seen this time - to still do the cintura contest (and quite frankly it's a tradition I'm very glad to see the back of), and when Juan Carlos recognised me from the stage (I had some fab adventures with Klimax in 2002, and one day, I'm going to write about it here) he called me up. I protested; he came and got me. I said: I won't dance. He said: oh no no. Liar. Seconds later the first girl starts whirling like a dervish in a banana skin. I patiently awaited for the right opportunity then fled the stage.
Piloto and keyboardist Yusef swapped roles for one song, but I'm afraid to say I can't remember what it was.
During the break, I caught up with JC and we had a right old chat and a bit of a dance, and he's coming to the party tomorrow night. He kept reintroducing me to various bandmembers, always with: look how much fatter she is now! Remember before when she was so skinny?
Spoke to their pianista who has a very Ben Harperish look about him and speaks reasonable English. He was kinda taunting JC cause he doesn't speak it. I really like their bass player. He looks like some guy from an emo band but he plays like ... well not quite Bootsy, but you get my drift. Solid and funky. He has a lot to do with the groove when its working - and probably when it's not as well.
So about 2:30am they went back on stage; and the weird thing is that the place had actually filled up during the break. Where were all these people before they came here? Obviously not watching Four Weddings and Funeral with inadequate Spanish subtitles on Cuban TV, like I was.
The highlight for me was probably No quiero que mi novia sea religiosa, with the usual rumba dancing from the conga player. It's so much fun that song. I defy anyone to stay seated during it. Killer. During the break JC had introduced me to the conguero, who is a babalao, and he offered to divine my saint for me, said that my head is full of too many things, and that it would calm my mind. Not to cast nasturtiums or anything, but I think you could probably guess with accuracy that any foreigner who works hard enough to save up enough money for a long trip to Cuba would be in the same state. But I guess that's just the cynic in me.
Even though the second set was mostly pretty good - they also did Te confunde ser esa mujer (they seem to have a new singer since 04 who can sing some of those higher songs) I didn't dance much - just too damn tired. And when they finished and the house music came on, I left.
Good gig though. Glad I chose it over Adalberto, who I now won't get to see this trip. And the sound was a zillion times better that whenever I've seen Klimax at Galiano - that place magnifies all of their shortcomings and offers nothing in return.
I have two more things to report - Tumbao Havana and a Van Van rehearsal - but right now I want to hit the hay. Disculpen por favor.