Monday, February 18, 2008

Don Omar

Call me demanding, but this reviewer thinks when a concertgoer pays $48 to $68 for a ticket (plus service charges), a headliner who has released multiple albums should perform for more than an hour.

That was not the case Friday night with Don Omar's appearance at the Patriot Center. To make matters worse, this Puerto Rican reggaeton star's 60-minute set was not the show's only problem. The forward-facing speakers above the stage (and possibly the soundboard settings) turned his frenetic dance hits and romantic ballads into a muddy mix to those in the side sections of the arena, with the sounds of Omar's background vocalists (and what appeared to be Omar's own recorded vocals) often outweighing his harder-to-hear live vocals.

On songs such as "Ronca"and "Reportense," Omar and his accompanists aggressively chanted the vocals, with some of the audience joining in over the thumping Latin American rap-meets-dancehall reggae beat. Although Omar's band included a violinist and guitarist, their string tones were hidden below the programmed beats and the DJ's records. However, on "Salio el Sol," Omar's band could be heard sweetening the relentless reggaeton attack with whistling and background harmonies. In addition, Omar, a former preacher and current ladies' man, began grinding suggestively with his female dancers before stepping aside for his impressive, quick-footed male dancers. Despite the acoustic problems, when Omar slowed things down for syrupy, keyboard-heavy ballads such as "Cancion de Amor," or interacted with the crowd between songs, many women screamed their exuberance.

Yet just after Omar began upping the tempo again with the reggaeton-in-overdrive of "Dale Don Dale" and "Conteo," he abruptly left the stage and the lights came on. The audience began clamoring for more, but when they realized Omar was not returning, their cheers turned to jeers.

-- Steve Kiviat

Ethos Percussion Group

The rhythms of Cuba, Ghana, India and Ireland take diverse and wondrous paths to the same end: getting people to move their bodies.

When Glen Velez and Bernard Woma joined the Ethos Percussion Group at the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Center on Friday night, their repertoire drew from many sources and sometimes touched rarefied heights of complexity. Still, at a basic level, it was easy to appreciate.

The Ethos quartet took Part 1 of Steve Reich's "Drumming" fast, constructing finely detailed waves of beats whose slow groupings and regroupings created a gripping tension in the Dekelboum Concert Hall. They also brought out the wit and surprises of Dafnis Prieto's mix of Latin American and Indian traditions in "The Guiros Talk," first using four scrapers and then expanding on the ideas with full percussion sets.

Playing pieces he wrote for himself, Velez summoned surprisingly round, full pitches from his tambourine in "Blue," and he used his voice as counterpoint for shifty rhythmic patterns from shakers and the haunting pitches and scrapes of his Irish frame drum in "Bodhran Solo."

But Woma stole the show with his gyil, a Ghanaian xylophone whose gourd resonators amplify tuned wooden keys; spider egg sac casings are stretched over holes in the gourds to create a humid buzzing sound. In Ghanaian sacred music with Ethos's Eric Phinney and Yousif Sheronick, Woma made his joyful noise unto the Lord raucous and devotional at once; in his own solo pieces, he showboated and twisted melodic lines and ran off into exotic harmonic realms. For his closing "Mambo," which featured all six musicians, Woma got the audience to join in, and the hand claps helped drive the music to an exhilarating climax.

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