Here’s the deal. I’m gonna write a real review of last night’s Linda Ronstadt charity show since Tim Finn can’t – Not because of a lack of talent or insight on his part. But more likely because of a basic inability to provide an accurate account of last night’s show given the complex fabric of political correctness and white guilt that comprises all of The Star’s coverage of Kansas City’s diverse communities.
There’s a simple fact that was evident last night that doesn’t bode well for any of us: Time has taken a devastating toll on Linda Ronstadt and her voice. There was a glimmer of her former glory, a slight shade of her Top 40 past and the brilliant spark that made audiences swoon. But for the most part she was an old lady struggling to keep up with the world class Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Can. And she required a myriad of breaks during the conchert.
That’s not to say the show wasn’t a good time or well worth the exorbitant ticket prices. However the fact of the matter is, if I don’t provide an honest look at how the whole thing went down last night: No one will.
First let’s start with circumstances. The show was a benefit for Kansas City’s Guadalupe School. Remember last winter the boiler at this place went out during the winter and a bunch of Latino kids were, literally, left out in the cold. This fact of life was exceptionally disappointing for the local Latino community given that no less than THREE parishes are SUPPOSED to support this educational effort. Redemptorist, Guardian Angles and Sacred Heart/Guadalupe midtown KC parishes were either too broke or too disinterested to adequately fund this school through regular channels. This minor community nightmare (students freezing) is what led to the valiant effort of Ronstadt and her celebrity fundraiser. Like it or not, I know my people, and we’re always more willing to fund a good party then to spend money on education: Latino high school dropout rates of nearly 50% nationwide speak to this fact along with a Latina dropout rate at near crisis levels.
Back to the show: As I noted previously the Mariachi group really held up most of the musical end of the evening. The group is a well known (if somewhat formulaic) powerhouse and their act was solid.
It must be a Midwestern thing: But the “all Spanish” angle to this show wasn’t really obtrusive. All of the chatter was in English and the audience was mostly filled with a Latino demographic known as “pochos” (half baked) to hardbody Mexican illegal immigrants. In turn, the derogatory term used to define the undocumented by their more assimilated cousins is “Mojados” which means “wet ones” and is a reference to folks recently crossing the Rio Grande. In any event, even the Mariachi group spoke to the crowd in English as one of the members bragged of a wife that was half his age and the crowd was instructed on how to perform a “grito” (yell/cry) that’s part of a traditional Mexican music. All things considered, this was the Bud Light of Latino culture, with the really inaccessible, dangerous and far less expensive fare (with free stray bullets) taking place at The Oasis on The Boulevard on weekend nights where most of last night’s Ronstadt crowd wouldn’t last 5 minutes.
Again, Linda Ronstadt can’t be faulted for her well-intentioned performance. But if we’re talking about watching a show simply for artistic merit, there’s no denying that her star has faded. She was out of breath during the latter parts of the show, she spent most of the night looking at a teleprompter as if she was Obama and she just couldn’t hit the high notes of these challenging songs.
And if the show at the Midland wasn’t populated mostly by Chicanos long separated from their roots, this event would have been even more stereotypical.
The songs were all standards that my Grandma would have loved but simply serve as background music in most chain Mexican restaurants nowadays.
The set list included
Por Un Amour
Tu Solo Tu – A VERY old school Mexican song that Selena took mainstream in the U.S.
Hay Unos Ojos and
These are all tunes that any American who has dined at any neighborhood Mexican eatery could probably recognize after a few bars. And to be honest, there wasn’t anything so miraculous about the performance of these standards that would warrant special consideration.
On the other hand, the encore of “Volver” brought the crowd to its feet and finally offered a glimpse of Ronstadt’s real brilliance. For just a moment, her foray into traditional Mexican music during the 1980’s didn’t seem like a marketing gimmick given that her “real” career was over. And the crowd didn’t seem like such an obvious collection of middle-class culture vultures. It was the only real moment of the show.
For a brief second, there was a real celebration of Hispanic heritage but the moment passed quickly. On the way out I noticed a couple of members of National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murgu