Calle 13 proves the exception to reggaeton’s rule – Orange County Register

Although the crowd for Saturday night (July 21) for Pacific Amphitheatre’s lone Latin music show this season was a small one – it seemed that less than half the seats were taken – every performer still gave 100 percent, and the audience responded accordingly, especially for Puerto Rican headliner Calle 13.

Crooked Stylo opened with a dose of hip-hop, brothers Victor and Johnny Lopez sampling popular cumbias and giving them a unique flavor by rapping over them. Reggaeton singers Alexis & Fido followed with their contagious if somewhat formulaic songs. The duo was accompanied on stage by two scantily-clad female dancers who helped get the crowd up and dancing.

Curiously, during the half-hour break before Calle 13 emerged the audience was treated to a mix of ranchera songs instead of typical urban fare, reggaeton or even tropical stuff, which would have been more appropriate. Thus, when the main attraction – Eduardo José Cabra Martínez (aka “Visitante”) and René Pérez Joglar (aka “Residente”) – finally came on stage, the crowd was more than ready for it.

A band of eight musicians including Visitante started playing as his younger sister Ileana, known as PG-13, started rapping the first few rhymes of “Suave,” a hit from Calle 13’s self-titled debut. Then singer Residente walked into the spotlight, drawing screams.

And for about an hour concert-goers were treated to Calle 13’s rich mix of rhythms, with Brazilian, Argentinean and Colombian elements combined with jazz, funk, hip-hop and Residente’s very particular flow. It results in a uniquely urban sound that is as universally appealing as Café Tacuba or El Gran Silencio can be in a more rock manner.

Although some of his lyrics are straight out vulgar, Residente’s raps are often smart and sometimes tackle themes not many others take on, such as immigration. (He dedicated “Me voy pa’l norte,” or “I’m Heading North,” a front-line, first-person view of the issue, to “all immigrants in the world,” adding that “In this country, we are all residents.”)

Add to such unexpectedly topical material strong musical backdrops and what you have is one of the more refreshing alternatives in the Latin scene. No wonder singers such as Nelly Furtado and Alejandro Sanz have collaborated with this talented duo. And seeing them live confirms this is a group with staying power. Unlike most reggaeton acts, Calle 13 is accompanied by a full band – brass, guitars, bass, percussion such as a conga drum and timbales, plus Visitante handling everything from accordion to keyboard to Theremin.

The group closed its set with the song that gave it a following, a cumbia with a reggaeton beat called “Atrévete-te” (“Dare To Do It”), a humorous, danceable treat that talks about letting loose and enjoying new things – namely reggaeton.

That may be the beat that helped make Calle 13 famous, but that’s hardly the only thing the duo has to offer.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3764 or

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