There were plenty of over-the-top antics from Fher Olvera during Mana’s Thursday performance at the Patriot Center. (All photos by Josh Sisk/For The Washington Post)

Mana's songs, most of them written by singer and occasional guitarist Fher Olvera, are well-crafted but not especially distinctive. So the group relied on elaborate stage business to sustain the audience's interest.

A scrim that rose and fell in front of the band was used for video projections, as were six screens behind and above the musicians (who were supplemented by three more players for most of the show). During "Sor Maria," a telenovela-style tale of forbidden love between a priest and a nun in 16th-century Spain, six men in monk's habits processed through the crowd and onto the stage, swinging incense-burning thuribles.

Toward the show's end, the group temporarily relocated to a platform at the opposite end of the arena for a mini-set of folkie singalong tunes, during which Olvera summoned a woman from the crowd for a slow dance. Alex Gonzalez's drum solo was pounded from a mobile riser that spun, advanced and finally hoisted itself about ten feet in the air. Also, in a moment that seemed more for the band's amusement than the fans', Maryland prestige guitar maker Paul Reed Smith traded licks with guitarist Sergio Vallin.


Melodramatic ballads like that one seem to be Mana's future — or at least Olvera’s. The now-pudgy vocalist still plays the rock-and-roll shaman during songs that draw on such early inspirations as U2 and the Clash. But Spanish guitar and Afro-Cuban percussion flavored most of the material, which will work fine in more intimate venues once Mana ages all the way out of arena-rock.

An earlier version of this review misspelled Fher Olvera’s name.