Sunday, March 05, 2006

Music & Musicians

'La Reina' Ana Gabriel Returns To The Garden For One Night Only
By Leslie De Jesus

A round table with an embroidered off-white tablecloth was positioned stage left far enough from the musicians, but close enough for the performer to walk with ease to it. A small vase was placed on the table with a single red rose. Two glasses of water were soon placed beside the vase.

The stagehands scurried around the stage making sure everything else was in place. Once they exited, three background singers, dressed in black, entered and took their mark, blending in with the musicians who had appeared onstage minutes earlier.

At 8:45pm, the lights began to dim and the crowd rose to its feet. Red lights filled the stage and the crowd began to chant “Ana! Ana! Ana!” Music filled the Madison Square Garden Theatre auditorium and everyone’s attention was directed to the giant screens above the stage. Images flooded the screen rapidly interchanging from live footage to still photographs of the performer enchanting her audiences across Latin America.

The images faded to black and the name Ana Gabriel flashed onto the screen. The crowd grew louder with anticipation and within seconds, the Mexican international superstar appeared on stage before the awestruck audience. She immediately got down to business and belted out hit after hit.

Half way through the performance a young woman rushed the stage. She carried a bouquet of red roses and security dashed to get her away, but Ana removed her earpiece and said, “Let her through.”

At the sound of those words, the young woman stuck out her tongue defiantly at the guards and hugged the Mexican singer. Many soon followed the young woman’s lead and weaseled their way to the front of the stage. Many handed the artist flowers while others held out photos for her to autograph. She smiled and assured the guards that it was fine. She signed autographs as she sang and occasionally asked the autograph seekers to ‘at least remove the pen caps’ before approaching the stage.

Another young woman found her way to the front and was trying to grab the singer’s attention. Ana asked the young woman to speak into the microphone and once the young woman took the mike she went into a long-winded account of how she had met her last year because she was an employee at the Garden. She asked the artist if she could go backstage after the show and Ana lost her nerve and stated, “I don’t care who your boss is or if he’s the owner of Madison Square Garden, the only boss here tonight is me.” The crowd erupted into applause.

The pint-size artist grew angrier as the young woman pleaded with her. Ana continued, “The only people I answer to tonight is this audience. You probably didn’t even pay for you ticket tonight while everyone else here did.” The young woman looked crestfallen, yet continued to ask the singer for lavish requests. Ana finally had enough of her and asked the maestro to cue up the next song.

She performed “Luna” (Moon),“Quien Como Tu?” (Nobody Better Than You) and “Simplemente Amigos” (Simply Friends), among others. “This is for all the Queens,” she said in Spanish before belting out her feminist anthem “La Reina,” and many women in the audience rose and sang along with her, waving their arms triumphantly in the air. Ana closed the evening with her up-tempo hit “En La Oscuridad” (In the Dark). Confetti filled the auditorium as she took her final bow and blew kisses to the audience.

First time concert attendee nine-year-old Lissette, clutching her grandmother’s hand, said, “I liked everything but my favorite part was when the confetti popped out,” she said with a timid smile. For 55 year-old Augustina Muñiz the concert was unlike anything she had ever experienced, “it was like a movie” she kept saying.

Muniz said it had been twenty-odd years since she had last attended a concert. Her eyes sparkled as she said, “It was beautiful, and I forgot all my problems. I was on another planet. She’s so kind and humble and her voice is so powerful. She never gets tired.” Her daughter Rosa wrapped her arms around her mother and said, “I’m so glad I was able to bring my mother to this concert. I knew she’d like it. She’s her favorite artist.”

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