Go with the Fro – latin soul singer Alex Cuba funks up the NAC

Singer Alex Cuba, right, with band mates Jose Sanchez (centre) and Ian Olmstead (left) say farewell to the crowd. Photo by Nicole Bergen

Singer-songwriter Alex Cuba brought a little piece of Havana – and the west coast – to the National Arts Centre Saturday night.

The Cuban-Canadian artist and his band performed songs from their newest album “Healer” to an ecstatic full house, baby boomers grooving in their seats as Cuba’s smooth voice and Latin beats enveloped the room. With a minimalist set-up in The Studio, one of the centre’s most intimate venues, the atmosphere was relaxed but upbeat during this extremely enjoyable and energizing show.

The amiable and animated frontman from Smithers, B.C. joked about his trademark fro and urged the crowd to vie for “most romantic capital”. He strolled around the stage, his casual velvet jacket and khaki-coloured pants in marked contrast to his buttoned-down and bow-tied band mates.

But what his natty band members lacked in cool they made up for with enthusiasm. Fellow Cuban Jose  Sanchez  was a blur on percussion, from the frenetic zip of the güiro to the irresistible bang of the bongo. Drummer Jake Jenne and bassist Ian Olmstead rounded out the sound with an insistent bass line and drums that were either cool and relaxed or loud and joyful.

Cuba was in constant motion – he rocked with his eyes closed, strumming the guitar during a romantic ballad like Sarah, written for his wife of twenty years. He strutted and moonwalked during loud and jazzy tunes like crowd favourites Lógica or Tu Boca Lo Quita.

The highlight of the evening was an audience dance party on stage for 70’s style rocker Caballo and the final number, Si Pero No.

Cuba is fresh off his Latin Grammy win for the album “Healer” and is also up for a Juno this year for his Latin and funk-infused rhythms. He has won two Junos previously.

Feature photo by Nicole Bergen.



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