Eliades Ochoa: Danforth Music Hall

Eliades Ochoa at the Danforth Music Hall.jpg


The crowd on the sidewalk smoking was abuzz with excitement in at leas three languages. Scalpers were taking a whipping as anybody with tickets in hand were gonna use them. The Cuban community was out in force as were many Toronto fans who’d caught the Cuban music bug while vacationing on the island. Put them all together and they spell a sold out show for the Cuban guitar maestro.

Backed by a well-schooled seven-piece band dressed in various shades of grey and black, the man best known to many as the lead guitarist and singer with Buena Vista Social Club set about turning a concert hall into a churning Havana barrio dance club.

When Ochoa takes to the stage, the music that he and his band play: clattering percussion, yearning trumpets, full-blooded vocal harmonies, swinging guitars, are markers of a specific Eliades Ochoa sound. Even though he's a fierce protector and champion of Cuba’s indigenous musical forms, Elidaes live and in the moment is the guy who revolutionised son by bringing percussion and horns into the mix. The guy whose unique harmonic guitar can sound like a tres (traditional Cuban guitar) or a regular guitar.

He’s also a man with a deep back catalogie to pull from and judging by the response from the knowing Cuban fans, his selections seemed to hit the sweet spot every time. Likely becaues the set list wqas definitely tilted in favour of the booty shaking numbers, with maybe only a couple of downtempo classic sonero type tunes.

Having set a torrid pace early on, Ochoa, notably assisted by the swinging trumpet sounds of Alain Antonio Dragonit Cotorruelo and Lennis Lara Castellanos, percussionist and congas beater Jorge Maturell Romero and bassist supremo Jorge Maturell Romero, went about building up the momentum with incendary takes on such as ‘Que Hummanidad’ and ‘Pintate Los Labios Maria’.

What really tore bodies out of the seats and into the aisles for dancing was a mini-set of tunes Ochoa recorded witn legendary Cuban singer Company Segundo. ncluding ‘Ahora Me Da Pena’ and the huge international hit ‘Chan Chan’. The latter turned into a singalong and the show’s escalation  point as from there on, there were as many bodies in the aisles as dancing in their seats.

After a two hour set and two encores, the 66 year old with the crowd in the paln of his hand, looking as fresh as when the set started, thanked us all for comng and showing him a good time. That’s classy in any language.

Lenny Stoute