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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Live: Camila bridges generations in Raleigh

Posted by on Wed, Aug 26, 2015 at 10:23 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY AMANDA BLACK
  • Photo by Amanda Black
The Ritz, Raleigh
Sunday, August 23, 2015

Camila is a very, very famous group in Latin America—so famous, in fact, that the night before the Ritz's almost-sold-out Sunday night show, they played to a crowd of 4,000 at Greensboro Coliseum with singer Marco Antonio Solís. The tour, dubbed "La Experiencia," aims to bring together two generations of die-hard romantics: Camila's audience, and their parents. Camila's status helped The Ritz rise to the occasion on a work night, but The Ritz put forth a great effort in its own right to make the audience comfortable and safe.

From the top: The security was on its best behavior all night. The security guards welcomed us with smiles, for instance. This shouldn't seem shocking for a concertgoer, but given the venue's recent track record, it is. The strange membership system for drinking has been replaced with a simple ID check and bracelet. The no-reentry policy seems to still be in place (and I still disagree with it), but as I watched a guard talk to a concertgoer who needed to step out, I sensed more flexibility and at least a great deal of courtesy in the exchange, despite a language barrier. The uniforms have also shifted from biohazard yellow to more professional red polos.

There still seems to be some promotional issues for Latino shows at The Ritz, however. Upon arriving at 9 p.m. (with the show scheduled to start at 8), we were told we had missed a local opening band, Letal. None of the promotional materials had mentioned an opening act; often, The Ritz has relied on DJs to play for up to four hours before an act comes on (like the epic 9 p.m.-1 a.m. set spun before Tego Calderón decided to take the stage two years ago), so the possibility of a band actually taking the stage at 8 p.m. seemed remote at best. Even more surprising was what happened next: Camila took the stage to wild cheering and applause at 9:15 p.m.

Well-versed in the art of schmaltz, pianist and singer Mario Domm and guitarist Pablo Hurtado had the crowd at their beck and call for the next two hours. Three backup singers and a host of string players moved with the two lead musicians through 16 songs in the main set and six encore songs, mostly the ballads for which Camila is known. A couple of funky tracks broke up the sentimentalism, moving the entire crowd, all the way from the very crowded dance floor to the VIP section. In "Yo Quiero," Domm and one of the backup singers took on the two vocal parts, showing off the grinning singer's impressive range and power.

Of course, the biggest hits from the charts were the biggest hits with the crowd, too, so "Bésame" and "Abrázame" ("kiss me" and "hug me," respectively) left fans with their arms raised and their cell phones shining. Should we cue the eye rolls now? True, the lyrics and theatrics of Mexican pop are heavy on sap and light on irony. The unshaven image of Mario Domm, in some pictures sporting a mohawk, and Pablo Hurtado in a black leather vest, somehow seems dissonant from the sound—shouldn't this rock be less polished, the guitar more distorted, the virtuosity of the singers dulled a bit?

This would contradict the very sound that many mothers and many young girls at the show sought on Sunday night. Teenagers speaking English uploaded pictures to Facebook with their friends and then turned to show their mothers and what they had done, explaining it to them in Spanish. The concert was a full-on romantic family event. Camila? Camila in Raleigh? Facebook couldn't believe it.

If the Ritz continues to implement positive changes (even the bar system needed to be revamped to ensure that each customer was charged the same at each different spot in the venue), it will continue to reap the rewards of this mixed-generation public, who cannot always afford expensive drinks or the trip to Greensboro. The happiness and buzz that Camila created for the crowd on Sunday is only possible with an equally polished and professional host—and The Ritz upped its game for the occasion.

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