Tucsonans saw a superb blend of standup comedy and bold salsa, R & B, and funk music that continued late into the night on Saturday, July 1. Paul Rodriguez and Felipe Esparza provided the standup comedy for the night while Malo, Tierra, and WAR provided amazing music for the crowd. There was a heavy Hispanic turnout and the sets seemed to be geared toward the fans.
Paul Rodriquez quietly sauntered on the stage to get the festivities started. Rodriguez’s resume includes starring roles and featured appearances in over 45 films, television series and comedy specials. He’s also taken on the task of writing, directing and producing for television and features including comedy concert films. It seemed odd that he would be opening the show, but Mr. Rodriguez took the challenge of being the opener with finesse and aplomb. During his monologue, he jumped off the stage and walked into the audience, shook hands and posed for selfies with many of the fans in the venue. He provided a lot of topical humor relevant today.
The wild haired, Felipe Esparza, immediately followed Paul Rodriguez with his edgy, raw comedy. Felipe hails from East L.A. and much of his comic routines are based from his experiences from the ‘hood.’ That said there doesn’t seem to be any subject that Felipe can’t make a funny routine from. Felipe has had his dreams come true. In addition to being a successful standup comic, he is an actor in the movies and television, past winner of the “Last Comic Standing,” and producer of his upcoming standup comedy special, “Translate This.
The mood quickly changed when Latin funk/rock band, Malo, took the stage. The veteran band from San Francisco has been in existence since the early 1970s. It has changed musicians many times since its inception. The band enjoyed huge popularity worldwide. The band is large and features three horns and full percussion with keyboards, bass, drums, as well as vocals. They performed an hour long energetic set that ended with their biggest hit, ‘Suavecito.” Their dance groove lead into the next band’s set.
Tierra carried on the evening with their blend of Latin R&B, pop, jazz and Salsa music. This LA-based band has been in existence since the mid-70s. This was another large band with a full horn section and percussion with keyboards, bass, drums, as well as vocals. They have had several hit songs including “Together,” Memories,” and “La La Means I Love You.” The 75-minute set included all their hits. Tierra had lots of sass and they were a crowd pleaser from start to finish.
The most anticipated band of the evening, WAR, took the stage at 1215 a.m. and they wasted no time getting into their hits from the past. It’s easy to forget how distinctive War’s sound really was and still is. Their album, The World Is a Ghetto, was the best selling album in 1973. That album produced the title tune as well as “Cisco Kid.”
Lonnie Jordan is the founding member of the band played keys and provided lead vocals. He appeared to be ageless as he led the band. Stuart Ziff played ‘mean’ guitar solos several times during the set. Stanley Behrens’ harmonica gave the band one of the trademark sounds that has been present throughout the years. Scott Martin’s sax was ‘in the zone’ with Stanley. Marcos Reyes percussion added the rich, full sound we expect from War. Bassist, Rene Comacho, is originally from Tucson and like the other musicians in the band Rene is a world-class musician. Sal Rodrigues on drums has played with almost every great band such as Tower of Power, The Doobie Brothers, Santana, Tony Bennett to name a few. Together the band proved with this set that they are as masterful and as relevant as they were in the early 1970s.
Their hit songs are also as relevant today as they were when they were created. “Low Rider,” “The Cisco Kid,” “Spill the Wine,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends?,” and “Slippin’ Into Darkness” were performed in the set. It was the perfect end to a night of stellar entertainment. The only thing that could make the set better was if Eric Burton joined the band. Maybe that will happen next time.