Several of the bands in town this week for the annual Austin City Limits music festival are also taping episodes of the show. Erykah Badu cancelled, but Manu Chao, Drive-by Truckers, Gnarls Barkley, The Swell Season, and The Foo Fighters are all taping shows in the next week. ACL show producer Terry Lickona described the first taping last night as an unusual treat.
Manu Chao rarely perform in the US and it’s even more rare for them to appear on US television. They tend to focus on Europe and South America. Manu Chao’s parents fled Franco’s regime in Spain and settled in France where he was born, so many of his songs are in Spanish or French. He was a founding member of the early 90s band, Mano Negra. Like that band, his current work has reggae and ska influences along with a decent helping of latin music & rhythms and punk rock. Their most recent album, La Radiolina, was released last year. Many of his lyrics are political. I’m pretty sure I heard a few references to a certain controlled substance, not surprising given the reggae influence. He was interviewed by High Times last year around the time that La Radiolina was released.
They’re a high energy band and will do well on a festival stage. The normally subdued ACL taping crowd took a little prodding to get going. Last night’s band included 6 musicians in addition to Chao himself: a drummer, a percussionist, a trumpet player, a keyboardist, a bassist and a guitarist. They wore their influences on their shirts. The percussionist was wearing a Tuff Gong shirt and the bass player, looked like a massive soccer hooligan, was wearing a Bad Brains shirt. They all made an effort to pump up the crowd and got people clapping and shouting throughout the set.
They stuck to mostly up tempo numbers and didn’t really pause much between songs. Several of the tracks on La Radiolina include a siren sound repeated throughout. I thought it was overused and, honestly, after several songs, they kind of started to sound the same. A sampling of their recordings while writing this reveals more diversity. I’d chalk some of that impression up to my unfamiliarity with the material. I’d definitely check them out for at least half of their set. I’m glad to see the show is still making an effort to introduce its audience to artists they may not have seen before in addition to pulling in more mainstream acts like Foo Fighters.
Manu Chao is the Friday night headliner at ACL Festival, starting at 8:30pm on the AT&T stage.
Set List (may not be exact):
LA PRIMAVERA POLITIKS
BIENVENIDA A TIJUANA
RUMBA DE BARCELONA
RAININ IN PARADIZE
RADIO BEMBA ELDORADO
ME LLAMAN CALLE