Silvio Rodriguez is "the Beatles and Dylan rolled into one" for Spanish speaking people said the Guardian a few days earlier. And indeed the expectation among the crowd was as high as if a concert with such a line up ever happened. Since his music career started, 45 years ago, Silvio had only been to London once before. So imagine the queue awaiting return tickets in the Barbican Hall.
I will be quick on the supporting band, Ska Cubano, who did their best to warm up the crowd, but putting them before Silvio Rodriguez would be like putting the Pussycat Dolls before Joan Baez. We're expecting a man with a few guitars, a flute, nice melodies and exceptional lyrics, so not really in the mood for some dancing. But they did quite well, until members of the 80s band Madness joined them onstage. Then, Ska became what I really think it is: boring.
Anyway, after the entracte, Silvio came on. Already we were on our feet to welcome him (So much for having to win people over!)
I thought about how tough it must be to be Silvio Rodriguez. He has 5-10 tunes that are known almost by heart in Latin America. Everyone probably remembers where they were the first time they heard Ojala. A boyfriend had just dumped me, and there came this haunting guitar and these lines over a tape player: "Let's hope something will happen that erases you suddenly, a bliding light, a snow storm, Let's hope at least death will take me so that I dont see you that much, so that I dont always see you". I cried like an idiot in front of everyone.
Anyway, it must be hard for him because people want to hear those songs, he has to play them. New ones? OK, why not, but you have to play Ojala he?? Which is why we knew there would be several encores because he hadnt played Ojala or others. And, when a guy comes twice in London in 45 years, we want to suck the blood out of him, he'd better play all the songs he can!!
So it was a good evening. I realised there were many songs I didnt know, but I enjoyed the warmness of people around me, people clapping to specific lines in songs, people doing a proper encore clapping (ie not random, but "O-TRA, O-TRA, O-TRA" English people cant do that, believe it or not), and of course Silvio's songs. He is a good writer, and though he has little efforts to make to be liked, he is a good performer as well.
To finish, here is a poem by Luis Rogelio Nogueras he read to people during his performance (he seems to read it at every concert)
Recorro el camino que recorrieron 4.000.000 de espectros.
Bajo mis botas, en la mustia, helada tarde de otoño, cruje dolorosamente la grava.
Es Auschwitz, la fábrica de horror que la locura humana erigió a la gloria de la muerte.
Es Auschwitz, estigma en el rostro sufrido de nuestra época.
Y ante los edificios desiertos, ante las cercas electrificadas, ante los galpones que guardan toneladas de cabellera humana.
Ante la herrumbrosa puerta del horno donde fueron incinerados padres de otros hijos, amigos de amigos desconocidos, esposas, hermanos, niños que, en el último instante, envejecieron millones de años.
Pienso en ustedes, judíos de Jerusalem y Jericó, pienso en ustedes, hombres de la tierra de Sión, que estupefactos, desnudos, ateridos cantaron la hatikvah en las cámaras de gas.
Pienso en ustedes y en vuestro largo y doloroso camino desde las colinas de Judea hasta los campos de concentración del III Reich.
Pienso en ustedes y no acierto a comprender cómo olvidaron tan pronto el vaho del infierno.
My translation (The ... sign means I didnt know how to translate. Apologies)
I follow the way taken by 4 millions spectres (...)
It is Auschwitz, the horror factory that human madness built to the glory of death
It is Auschwitz, a mark on the face of our times
And, in front of the deserted buidlings, the electric fences (...)
In front of the rusty oven door where were incinerated fathers of other sons, friends of unkown friends, wives, brothers, children who, in the last moment, aged millions of years.
I think about you, Jews of Jerusalem and Jerico, I think about you, men of the land of Sion who, (...) sang the hatkivah in the gas chambers.
I think about you and your long and painful way from the hills of Galile to the concentration camps of the III Reich.
I think about you and cannot manage to understand how you forgot so quickly the vapor of hell.