Photography by Carlos Pericás
Jon Lusk attended Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club’s show at the Royal Albert Hall on April 5 as they say goodbye on their Adios tour.
Having effectively revitalised Cuban music in the late 90s, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club have embarked on their final tour to say adios. But never say never…
Sold out three months in advance, the crowd were often grinning from ear-to-ear and applauding on their feet towards the triumphant conclusion of a generous and comprehensive two hour-plus set. Playing David to the approaching musical Goliath, Cuban support act Omar Puente with his fiddle, bass and piano trio had somehow managed to hold the attention of an audience that weren’t expecting them at all.
With so many of the old-timers having long departed, it was heartening to see original core members such as trumpeter Guajiro Mirabal playing alongside his grandson Guajirito, and a walrus-moustachioed Barbarito Torres chiming his laúd against the bright notes picked out by guest tresero Papi Oviedo. He danced gleefully with Omara Portuondo, who can somehow still belt out ‘No Me Llores’ and move onstage much like she used to, despite her 80-plus years. Often alongside musical director, trombonist and singer Jesus Aguaje Ramos in a suave white suit, Portuondo was a colourful and vivacious mistress of ceremonies and lead singer
And with talented new recruits such as singers Carlos Calunga and Idania Valdés (daughter of their former timbales player Amadito Valdés), one suspects that – like Arnold Schwarzenegger – they’ll be back. Hasta la vista, baby.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club are on tour in the UK until July 30. Read our review of Lost and Found.