On July 29th, Gustavo Cerati showed a Chicago audience why he is among the most acclaimed and popular artists in Argentina. Greeted by fans who adore both him and his former band, Soda Stereo, Cerati took the stage at the Metro in Chicago and offered a diverse, passionate set centered around, but hardly limited to, his latest release, Siempre es Hoy. Cerati's career began in post-dictatorial Argentina, when Soda Stereo came to define the Argentine musical renaissance of the early '80s. Their popularity reached its height in the late '80s and early '90s, as the band enjoyed success from Mexico to Chile with a sound that shifted over the years from ska and punk to rock to electronica and back to pure pop without losing any of their high songwriting fidelity. In 1997, after 15 years, Soda Stereo played their final concert in Buenos Aires. Since then, Cerati has enjoyed a chameleonic yet critically acclaimed solo career. Cerati's first release after Soda Stereo was Bocanada, a dark and textured collection of songs that were reminiscent of both the Beatles and Depeche Mode. He followed this up by writing the soundtrack to and starring in an Argentinean movie, + Bien. His next musical release, 11 Episodios Sinfonicos, had him singing some of his greatest songs (both solo and Soda), with the arrangements reinterpreted by a full orchestra. Siempre es Hoy sees him return to more traditional music business fare. The album is largely an experiment of drum loops and human emotions, and while the album is moody at times, this translated to the live show as only his fans would have it: as a celebration. A thick techno beat set the stage as a bassist, drummer, backup female vocalist and two keyboardists/programmers walked on. The beat stayed on as the band began to play. When Cerati finally appeared, plugged in his guitar, and ripped into four songs off Siempre, the crowd not only sang along but throbbed along. Opener Ely Guerra (an impressive Mexican singer à la PJ Harvey) had alluded to how excited she was to play on the same stage as Cerati, and his reception by his fans echoed the electricity in the air and vibrancy in the music. Like a DJ who decides to play along with his records and lead a sing-a-long while he's at it, Cerati fed off the crowd's energy. And the sound was loud and thick. If you wore earplugs, you missed about half the melodies that were being woven over the big backbeat. The music sounded at times like the brighter moments of U2's Pop, at other times like an annunciating My Bloody Valentine, and still at other times like a collision between the Sea and Cake and the Buena Vista Social Club. The whole time the techno beat didn't stop, and neither did Cerati while the crowd kept dancing. On his last tour of America, Gira Bocanada, Cerati was still living under the shadow of Soda Stereo. By now he's proven that his solo work is just as good, and with nothing left to prove he dug deep into Soda's back catalogue, playing such hits as 1985's "Danza Rota" and obscure songs such as "Sequencia Inicial". His catchy pop melodies inspired even my German speaking companion to attempt to sing along in Spanish. After a three-song encore, Cerati waved goodnight to his fans and left the stage as the house lights came on. It was the most fun I've ever had losing my hearing.
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