Maná sold out a record 4 nights at Staples Center and now I know why. Of the bands that have appeared at Staples Center, this was one of the most intense experiences for fans with them singing along to every lyric. There was a preternaturally easy synergy between performers and audience.
Haven’t heard of Maná? Well, Maná fans (called Manáticos) are used to their band defying odds. They’re also used to English media completely ignoring the band, that is until recently when after 30 years (including their years as Sombrero Verde) they landed the cover of Billboard Magazine.
This was one of the first bands to promote Rock en Espanol back when it was called “rock en tu idioma” and almost no one was doing it. Out of 1980s came legends – Caifanes, Café Tacuba, and Maná who is now the greatest of them all.
How does anyone do it? Their Latin peers Ricky Martin and Shakira sing in English even more than Spanish, and yet their crossover never earned either of them 4 sold out nights at Staples Center. The only band in their same league is U2. It’s all rather ironic for a band hidden behind the Spanish-language curtain. Incidentally, Fher Olvera is one of Bono’s best friends.
Part of it is longevity. Like Muse, they delve into philosophies about butterflies and hurricanes – minus the conspiracies. But much like U2, it’s about charisma, social conscience, and having written a song for just about everything. They have love songs, protest songs, feelgood songs, danceable Latin songs, and even new-wavish-tech songs from their early days. Sometimes they verge on sounding like Santana – but all in Spanish instead of just a few numbers like “Oye Como Va.”
Some of it is as blatantly intentional as a band could possibly be to pick a topic so many are passionate about and to write a great song that summarizes how everyone feels. Such was the case with “Latinoamerica”. They projected the words and flags of all Latin American countries during the concert in a call to unite as one people. The song was written by their drummer, Gonzáles, who is the only US citizen in the group.
They also make their fans think about things with social conscience and philosophy. Lead singer Fher Olvera declared in a pre-recorded statement that the earth can live without man, but man cannot live without the Earth. They are environmental activists who created the Selva Negra Foundation. They are helping to create educational curriculum.
Oh, who are we kidding? The chicas really love Maná for those passionate love songs with great lyrics. Those are some handsome guys up there. But, hey, the chicas will certainly love you a little more if you sing (or try to sing) one of those songs – or make a dedicación on the radio. Seriously, it’s a little of everything. “Latinoamerica” was a concert highlight for me, and I’m female.
In some ways it’s a mystery that anyone could do what they did, defying odds to get where they are while operating under the radar of major tastemaking outlets like Rolling Stone, Spin, etc. But they did it. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll headline the Coachella Festival just to leave half of everyone scratching their heads.
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For a live review with photos check Maná – Drama y Lúz live in Los Angeles (PHOTOS – FOTOS) and share it with this link http://exm.nr/ManaLAfotos.