Thinking of Gustavo Cerati

 

In 2007, I went to Buenos Aires for the first concert of the reunion tour of Argentine stadium rock pioneers Soda Stereo at the Estadio River Plate, where they performed for 70,000 people. Three months ago, former Soda singer/guitarist Gustavo Cerati had a stroke, which affected his brain, after a concert in Venezuela. He remains in a coma. I first met Gustavo, along with Zeta Bosio and Charly Alberti in Buenos Aires in the eighties, and later, when I worked at CBS Records, spent time with them when they recorded "Doble Vida" in New York. I really had no idea what huge stars they were in Latin America at first, but from Soda and from Cerati especially, I learned a lot about writing great songs, recording an album, why it is important to keep your publishing rights, and leaving a concert in an ambulance so you don't get mobbed by the crowd on the way out. I'm so happy I was able to catch the reunion tour (four of the concerts, actually!)  and talk to Cerati on occasions when he put out his more recent solo albums. Brain injuries are a mystery, and with hope for Gustavo's recovery I've been listening to the old Soda songs, which play significantly in my personal soundtrack.

 

The stands of Buenos Aires' mammoth River Plate soccer stadium seemed made of rubber Sunday night as 70,000 Soda Stereo hinchas bounced to "De Musica Ligera," one of 29 career-spanning songs Soda played over three hours. It was the third night of an amazing weekend of sold-out shows, the furiathat porteos had been waiting ten years for. I had flown South on a nostalgia trip to see the return of what I can now say for sure was the greatest rock band ever en espaol, but Soda delivered much more than memories: Gustavo Cerati, as his solo career has proved, is a total monstruo; Charly and Zeta came out of the gate with power and it was clear the three were having as good a time as everyone else was. The shows were huge but intimate, elegant and raw, old but new, visually surprising - actually, a lot like Buenos Aires itself. Soda took off for Chile Monday morning, and after Latin America they'll be playing Los Angeles and Miami. Get there New York fanticos - Cerati says a New York show is not going to happen.

  (Photo: Pompi Gutnisky)

(Photo: Pompi Gutnisky)

The crowd ranged from teenagers to ochenteros, who like the members of Soda, were just into their twenties when Argentina was flung from the dirty war into the disastrous Malvinas (Falklands) War and, as suddenly, into democracy. Julio Cortazer once referred to a Sunday soccer game in Buenos Aires as "hope dressed as a goal." In the Eighties, hope, and happiness too, dressed as music. It was Soda who declared a ban on national soul searching and called for music for music's sake. Then they took the party all over, becoming the first truly international Latin American rock band, evolving on every album until they split in 1997. Simple songs? Maybe, but there's a lot you can read into those lyrics and many last night sang every word. Two 19-year-old girls I spoke to shrugged off the poetry: "It's just good music." They had been sleeping outside the stadium since Thursday, going back to stand in front of the stage every night until Soda was gone.

 (Photo: Damian Benetucci)

(Photo: Damian Benetucci)

The concerts were visually stunning, with lighting like art museum fireworks and video backgrounds so beyond the common graphic tricks. The video images were unusually luminous, making it actually enjoyable to watch the band on screens around the stage. This was the work of Martin Phillips, known for his stage designs for Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails.

"People kept telling me that when the concert started everyone was going to go loco," Phillips said after the concert. "I was like yeah, I've been in music for a long time, I know. But when the concert started I was up in the tower. The crowd started moving and the tower started shaking. Really shaking."

The public screamed most for the early hits: "Persiana Americana," "Profugos." The band added a reggaeton rhythm to an explosive version of "El Temblor."

  (Photo: Judy-Cantor-Navas)

(Photo: Judy-Cantor-Navas)

The public screamed most for the early hits: "Persiana Americana," "Profugos." The band added a reggaeton rhythm to an explosive version of "El Temblor."

 

 

 

  (Photo: Pompi Gutnisky)

(Photo: Pompi Gutnisky)

At the start of the first concert on Friday night, Los Soda seemed stiff for the first few songs. By Sunday night they were so loose and relaxed it felt like they were having te para 70,000.

Here is Soda Stereo's full set list from their October 21st  show:


JUEGOS DE SEDUCCION
TELE - K
IMAGENES RETRO
TEXTURAS
HOMBRE AL AGUA
CIUDAD DE LA FURIA
PICNIC EN EL 4 B
ZOOM
EL TEMBLOR
FINAL CAJA NEGRA
TRATAME SUAVEMENTE
SIGNOS
SOBREDOSIS DE TV
DANZA ROTA
PERSIANA AMERICANA
FUE
EN REMOLINOS
PRIMAVERA 0
NO EXISTES
SUELES DEJARME SOLO
SEPTIMO DIA
UN MILLON DE ANYOS LUZ
DE MUSICA LIGERA
DISCO ETERNO
CAE EL SOL
PROFUGOS

ZONA DE PROMESAS
NADA PERSONAL
VITAMINAS