December 11, 2018 at Paradise Rock Club
I never thought I would say that I had a religious experience during a concert. It seems cliched and like a blatant lie. With all the sweaty bodies, loud sounds and smell of beer, it doesn’t strike me as the right spot to have a revelation. But, during Bomba Estéreo’s set at Paradise Rock Club, I felt like I was five again, sitting in church and believing in something for the first time in a while.
It doesn’t hurt that the Colombian band’s set was centered around a religious ceremony. With the stage decorated like a jungle, lead singer Liliana Saumet delivered her electric singing, screaming and chanting with elaborate costumes, candles and an altar filled with fruit. She was unforgiving in her delivery, bringing the psychedelic cumbia sound of the band to Boston through a deeply Southern American tradition. Before their set began, the screen on stage advertised eco-activism. During the show, Saument held half of a papaya in front of her hips, smiling gleefully and yelling about the power of women. The band truly did what they wanted, and it worked in their favor.
The band’s name, after all, is a term for a really fun and energetic party or celebration, which is precisely what happened that night. Opening with “Caribbean Power,” off of their 2013 studio release Elegancia Tropical, the song begins with oscillating synths and is immediately followed by an intense guitar riff and cumbia beat. The crowd resembled the dance floor of a club instead of a pit at a concert. “Yo soy Caribbean power elegancia tropical / Caribbean power elegancia tropical / Caribbean power elegancia tropical,” Saumet screamed as flashing lights flooded the stage, turning the band’s bodies into moving shadows.
The set continued with few breaks, each song blending into the next. Occasionally, some banter would escape from Saumet in between songs, asking the crowd if they were from Mexico, or Colombia, or the Dominican Republic. If there was one take away the band wanted fans to bring with them after the show, it was the pride they felt for South America, and more specifically, Colombia. Traditional instruments, like tamboras, guacharacas and tiples were blended flawlessly with the hypnotizing loops of electric guitar, synthesizers and a very simple drumset.
Expecting the typical infectious energy of an electronic show, I went in anticipating a lot of energy. But I came out of the show stupefied by the amount of energy that the band ended up providing. It was an overdose of joy and carelessness that plastered a smile on my face from start to finish. It’s hard to tell when Bomba Estéreo will come through Boston next, but this sold-out night at Paradise left an impact on the city’s fans like no other.
Photos by Chris Triunfo