A sizable minority of the full house at the Montgomery Blair High School Friday night were Latin Americans who were obviously thrilled to see Leon Gieco in such a small theater rather than the soccer stadiums he can fill at home in Argentina. The majority of the crowd were North American folk fans who were willing to take Pete Seeger's recommendation that Gieco is one of the hemisphere's major talents. Their faith was justified. Seeger opened the show playing gospel hymns, traditional sing-alongs, children's songs, protest songs, a Bob Dylan song and even some songs in Spanish on banjo and guitar as he led the crowd in infectious group singing. He then turned the stage over to Gieco, who had hosted Seeger in Buenos Aires in 1988.
For his Washington debut, Gieco began with a musical tour of Argentina, playing examples of the different provincial rhythms that he builds his own songs from. Then he brought out keyboardist Mauricio Najt and bandonion player Antonio Tarrago Ros for Gieco's protest anthems, love songs, philosophical meditations and lively dance numbers. Gieco is often called the "Bob Dylan of South America," and his driving acoustic guitar rhythms, harmonica fills, black outfit and irreverent banter made the analogy seem apt. So much of the international music that Americans hear is dance-oriented because of the language barrier, but Gieco reminded one that singer-songwriters are just as prominent elsewhere in the world. Only when subtitles are extended to pop concerts, though, will foreign troubadours get their proper recognition.