14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 9 September 2018 — Three years since his last concert at the Karl Marx Theater, Pablo Milanés returned to the same venue last Friday. The concert, dubbed “My Havana,” began with the firing of a canon at precisely nine o’clock in the evening, a gesture to mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city, to which the singer-songwriter paid tribute.
The audience reaction was enthusiastic. As soon as the curtain rose, there was a standing ovation. The concert began and ended with people rising to their feet in homage to their adopted Havanan hero, who set so many of his songs in the Cuban capital and made numerous appearances here.
After performing a snippet from his song “Marginal” followed by “Cuanto Gané Cuanto Perdí” (So Much I’ve Lost, So Much I’ve Gained”), Milanés commented, with some emotion, that Cubans are his favorite audience, especially those from Havana. Describing the event as “this night among friends,” he told the audience, “there are some new things for you in this recital that I will present for your consideration.”
The show, which lasted almost two hours, featured Milanés’ classic tunes sung to an audience which responded with tears and applause. The repertoire also included more recent compositions, though the attendees were happy to once again hear him perform old standards such as Para Vivir, Yolanda and De Que Callada Manera.
On stage he was accompanied by musicians who have been part of Milanés’ artistic journey as well as members from his current group, who demonstrated distinctly jazz influences. The almost inseparable trio that has accompanied him for more than a year was made up of Miguel Núñez on piano, Sergio Félix Raveiro “El Indio” on bass and Osmani Sánchez on percussion.
One of the night’s surprises was the appearance of Carlos Varela, who joined Milanés to sing Vestida del Mar and Los Días No Volverán. Both managed to create an intimate atmosphere, transporting the audience to a time when there was more opportunity on the island for writing and performing trova-style songs, a time when their words and melodies impacted the lives of many Cubans.
The second big event of the night happened when Pancho Céspedes left the stage. He thanked Milanés for his trust, a gesture that was reciprocated when the singer-songwriter described him as “a brother and friend of many years.”
For the special numbers, the troubadour invited Maykel González and Robertico García on the trumpet, Emir Santacruz on the tenor saxophone and Aldana on the flute to join him. Accompanied by this metal string, he performed Amor Que Cantas la Noche, a poem by Sandra de Peret that Milanés set to music, followed by Regalo and Amor.
He did not pass up the chance to thank old collaborators such as the pianist Miguelito Nuñez, who accompanied the singer-songwriter for more than three decades. Nuñez came to this concert with his daughter Mariana, who was the cellist that night for Nostalgias, a song that — as Milanés describes it — has turned out to be the most important number from his album Días de Gloria.
Between songs the artist spoke enthusiastically, smiled, shared memories and acted like the host at a get-together in the living room of his own house. Natural and flawless in his interpretations, he displayed a vocal ability that has not been diminished with the passage of time.
Pablo, as his fans affectionately refer to him, paid homage to the Cuban capital with his song Vestida del Mar. He sang, “Havana will come back. It will be what it once was, dressed in the sea, dressed in light, like a rebirth. But it will mourn the loss that it will not be able to revive.” A flood of applause drowned out his voice.
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