Yesterday, Los Angeles-based multicultural band Ozomatli took the Central Park Summerstage by storm... literally. A soggy day deterred the crowds, but those who attended (maybe 200 tops) were fortunate enough to witness something special as the group played its songs with accompaniment by the New York Pops, a professional symphonic orchestra. The Pops, led by Steven Reineke, added a variety of touches to Ozomatli's anthems. Songs like "Elysian Persuasion" and "Saturday Night" went into disco territory, while "Cuando Canto" was a beautiful waltz.
Although the rain stopped for the start of the show, about halfway through the set, the skies opened up and things got downright torrential. (Cue token comment about how much I hate the people around me at shows.) Too bad the asshole in front of me had to pull out the world's largest umbrella and block my view. I backed up and moved out of the center, and the band kept playing. Ozomatli and the Pops were joined by some Harlem School of the Arts' jazz students, including one amazing 11-year-old blind keyboardist, for oldies "Cumbia de los Muertos" and "Como Ves." The latter was taken to new heights with the orchestral backing.
I've never seen Ozomatli do an encore. They've always finished their set, and started a chant of "Ozomatli, ya se fue, ya se fue!" They then grab portable instruments and venture into the crowd for sing-a-longs of anything from the theme of Sesame Street to "Give Peace a Chance." After the set, the band waved goodbye, and the orchestra began packing up. The house lights came on and the PA started playing some music. Diehard Ozo fans like the ones who stayed for this monsoon of a show weren't going to just leave without a little more. After 3 minutes, the band came back out. "You ready for us to do this L.A.-style?" asked bassist Wil-Dog Abers. "Yeah!" we cheered, expecting "City of Angels," which come to think of it, would sound awesome with strings. But "City of Angels" we did not get. "Caballito," in my opinion, a weak song, closed the night, and they never came out into the audience. I guess people from L.A. melt if they get wet.
OZOMATLI WITH THE NEW YORK POPS – 06.12.12 – RUMSEY PLAYFIELD (1 hour, 25 minutes)
La Gallina / Elysian Persuasion / Dos Cosas Ciertas / Can’t Stop / Nadas por Free / Believe / Cumbia de los Muertos / After Party / Ya Viene el Sol / La Temperatura / Malagasy Shock / Chango / Cuando Canto / Here We Go / Saturday Night / La Misma Canción / Como Ves