Time stopped at the San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium when the beautiful and magnificent Omara Portuondo took the stage and began sang with the world acclaimed Cuban band, Buena Vista Social Club.
Throughout the whole concert Portuondo spoke to her faithful and devoted listeners in her native spanish. Even if you did not speak spanish, you never felt isolated because Portuondo is an expressive and evocative performer whose every movement captivates.
During breaks between songs, Portuondo smiled devilishly to herself, pointing out that she is the only woman in a band of 13 men, with complete control. Knowing that the audience and her band was at her every command she playfully danced with the petite yet handsome and amazing pianist Ruben Gonzales. Her enthusiasm only proved that in her fifty-fifth year as a performer age has not slowed her down.
Where some singers forget their band, Portuondo never once ignored her talented and explosive musicians accompanying her. The majority of the Club’s musicians played solos during the concert. The most entertaining was the featured front stage three-string guitar player, Compay Segundo. Wearing a gray checkered suit with a cream derby hat, Segundo played the Tres with great command while plucking his strings with speed and accuracy in front of him and behind his neck!
Rarely are there concerts where the audience is in sync with whatever the performer wants. When Portuondo wants everyone to stand, everyone does it. By her sixth song, she practically the whole auditorium on their feet, clapping and singing along with her “Canta conmi.” She explains in Cuban that “I am not the type of girl to just sing solo and belt out Summertime.”
For her closing song Portuondo sang “Poco de Maya” a salsa classic. Portuondo only thought that was her closing song after all of the musician’s solo’s that night. Instead after insistent requests for an encore. She came out and sang “Dos Gardenias” , one of three songs she ended up singing. Crying out for more of Cuba’s leading songstres, the audience could not let go of Portuondo and the Buena Vista Social Club. Unfortunately like all good things, an end was in sight. But not before the group of 13 men and one woman, cha-chaed their way out, waving the Cuban flag as the audience clapped and chanted,”Vive Cuba.”