Gustavo Cerati | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Starting in the early 80s Argentina's Gustavo Cerati and his band Soda Stereo put rock en espanol on the map, self-consciously remaking the sound and look of bands like U2, the Police, and Simple Minds. The music was forgettable, but polished to a blinding sheen it provided hungry Latin American audiences with some important cultural currency--their own modern-rock band. Soda Stereo were multiplatinum superstars in their hemisphere, but even before their split in 1997 Cerati had embarked on a solo career that left behind much of the group's MTV-style bombast. His first album on his own, 1993's Amor amarillo, backed pop melodies with bare-bones arrangements and electronic textures, but it wasn't until the superb Bocanada (BMG Latin, 1999) that Cerati attained the artistic power to match his celebrity. The brooding, often melodramatic songs tempered the romantic grandeur of classic Latin American ballad singing with a modern sense of economy; arrangements favored programmed rhythms and samples colored in with real instruments, from the stinging guitar on "Tabu" to the orchestral splendor of "Verbo carne." His most recent album, Siempre es hoy, retains some contemporary electronic elements, but otherwise it's a regression to the blander strategies of his Soda Stereo days: would-be anthemic hooks, stale neo-80s synths, sub-Edge guitar. Cerati can still craft a pretty melody when he tries, but any inspiration is MIA. He remains a fine performer, however, and this show--a benefit for the Latino radio station WRTE (90.5 FM)--will surely be packed with enthusiastic fans. The Mexico City singer Ely Guerra, whose terrific Lotofire (Higher Octave) was finally released in the U.S. last year, will open, performing here for the first time since her debut at the 2001 World Music Festival. Tuesday, July 29, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

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