Not wanting my adventure in Latin music to end, I jumped at the chance to cover Maná during their first of seven nights at The Forum for their Rayando El Sol Tour this past weekend. It took a bit of time for it to sink in, but I soon realized that selling out a stadium-sized venue for seven nights is no small task. You’ve got to have some serious star power and a lengthy, successful, dynamic discography—both of which Maná have in spades—to accomplish that.
This feat really speaks to the ability of music to communicate without words. Like Maluma, Maná’s songs are sung primarily if not solely in Spanish. Yet, somehow, they have been able to convert Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers alike into avid, devoted fans. Maybe it’s their unmatchable talent. Perhaps it’s their penchant for unforgettable, catchy melodies. Whatever the reason, Maná has become a mainstay in Latin music and the performance I caught this weekend showed the world that they are not stopping anytime soon.
The band has undergone some line-up changes throughout their 30-plus year history, but the current roster, which includes original members Fher Olvera (vocals, guitar), Juan Calleros (bass) and Alex González (drums, backup vocals), and guitarist Sergio Vallín who joined the group in 1995, serves up such an extraordinary, rock-infused performance that will have even the shyest, “I never dance” concert attendee (me) up and out of their seat bopping to their infectious rhythms.
The stage setup was so grand that, because I was able to score an up-close floor seat, it took me a minute to take in all of the details. The primary setup included the standard stage accompanied by a long catwalk that ran in between the floor seats. Transparent drapes hung in front of the stage as images were projected on it before and during the performance. The night began with a video that included a medley of Maná’s greatest hits. It was a good chance to really understand just how vital the band has been to modern music history. As the kings of Latin Rock, their music has seen a range of evolutions as they consistently stayed on the forefront of the genre, infusing their tunes with a mix of Caribbean/reggae flavor (“Oye Mi Amor,” “Vivir sin Aire”), classic rock ballad accents (“No Ha Parado de Llover”) and typical guitar-heavy rock & roll spice, all of which came out in full force during their performance.
Halfway through the performance, the set changed as an enormous, life-size elephant emerged in the middle of all the instruments in what was Maná's effort to use their platform to raise awareness for the environment. In between songs, conservation facts and information tidbits were displayed on the screens on either side of the stage for the thousands of attendees to read and absorb.
The foursome's onstage chemistry was palpable, the result of spending many years performing together. They fluidly transitioned from one song to the next, improvising and playing off each other as if they had planned each second meticulously. They were truly a unit, every person a master at their own instrument, and not one dominating the others. Every member had their time to shine. González dazzled the crowd with his bright expressions and agile drumming. He incorporated tricks into his act like twirling his drumsticks or throwing them up midsong. He even had a hand at singing lead briefly during one of the songs. Bassist Calleros provided that solid foundational backbone to all of Maná's hits and stepped up from time to time so we could get a better look at his playing during several songs.
Olvera was the perfect frontman with a serious knack for showmanship. His captivating personality and stellar vocals were on display right at the beginning. His outfit changes presented an opportunity for him to advertise his very noble social views. At one point, he donned a tank top with the words “We Are All Equal” emblazoned on the front.
Being a Mexican rock band, Mexican pride was at the forefront of a lot of his in-between chatter. Scores of fans waved their flags in the air proudly. In step with his shirt, Olvera also took a moment to welcome all non-Mexicans and “gringos” to the show proclaiming that “we are all citizens of the world.”
I found myself completely entranced by Vallín’s guitar playing. His musical ability was second to none as he seamlessly transitioned between playing two different guitars—sometimes within the same song! I was mesmerized by his intricate playing as I watched his nimble fingers dancing up and down the fingerboard. It was a spectacle all on its own. Sometimes, I would find myself watching him specifically during certain songs in anticipation of what he might do next. One of my favorite moments was when Vallín and a guest guitarist made their way to the middle of the catwalk and played a seemingly improvised solo—a sort of call-and-response that had the guest guitarist mimicking Vallín.
Hopefully, for everyone, there comes a moment in your life where you think to yourself, “I love my job.” For me, that moment came as I sat in that huge arena venue being serenaded by one of the greatest Latin rock bands of all time. I feel extremely grateful to have been given the chance to experience their level of artistry. Maná comes back to LA this year in November/December for a record-breaking FOUR more shows. If you were fortunate enough to snag tickets before they sold out, get ready for the time of your life.