El Komander, Celebrity Theatre, 7/21/12

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El Komander Celebrity Theatre Saturday, July 21, 2012

See also: Narcocorridista El Komander To Bring the Sound of the Drug War to Phoenix See also: José "El Pelón" Ávila Blames New Times for Canceled Show

I would have really liked to chat with popular Mexican corridista El Komander before his show at the Celebrity Theatre. I wasn't able to make it happen, but after last night's powerful performance I think I have an idea of how it would have gone down if I had.

While narcocorridos, or drug ballads are his forte, Komander, or Alfredo Rios, also draws on less complicated topics: beer, tequila, chicks or morritas, hangovers and just all-out fun. For the most part, the beat is the same accordion-based, polka-infused norteño folk you can hear just by hitting scan on your radio dial, but Rios' energy, charisma, and showmanship are really a sight to behold in any language.

Had an interview transpired, I probably would have skipped a coffee shop setting and invited him to meet me at La Condesa for some of the best horchata ever made, or better yet Barrio Café -- to sample some of the tequila bar. I imagine he would have walked in dressed in some slick shirt, shades and boots and the conversation would have unfolded like this:

"Komander?" I would have asked.

"My name is Alfredo Rios, and I party," he would have replied.

"I'm Anthony Sandoval and I, too, party," I would have said.

Then I imagine he would have tilted his sunglasses down, flashed a smile and responded with: "I know for a fact you don't party."

How could I have possibly surmised this conversation after watching this man perform for barely over an hour? Well, because, this guy's event felt more like a rocking party than a stuffy concert.

I have to admit I was still riding high from my Dark Knight Rises fix from earlier in the day, and wasn't particularly looking forward to the show; especially when it took forever for Rios to take the stage.

Local banda group, Mi Lindo Mazatlan had kept the crowd entertained early in the night with their 15-piece ensemble, but quickly shuffled off stage once El Komander seemingly arrived to the venue.

The crowd grew restless as the intermission dragged on for almost an hour, but once Rios hit the catwalk, all was forgotten.

Rios walked out looking a lot like most of the male concertgoers in attendance with his closely cropped hair, silk shirt, and shiny boots. His four-piece backing band looked equally debonair in matching black outfits.

The group electrified the crowd with their hit, "Fiesta en la Playa" and then took it up a notch with the classic drinking song, "Tragos De Amargo Licor." One by one, Rios invited ladies up to the stage, sat them down on a fold-up chair and poured heaping amounts of Buchanan's 12-year-old Scotch whisky down their gullets as he yelped, "Arriba las mujeres."

Rios rattled off song after song, serenading the crowd with his smooth vocals, adjusting his cadence to stay in line with the varying time signatures of the rest of the band. Although the round stage slowly rotated to give everyone a fair view, he worked the entire floor, stomping and posing and reaching into the crowd for kisses, photo opportunities, and gift exchanges.

He started out the night with a lone gold necklace, but by the end of the evening had amassed several different rosaries and other charms around his neck.

And El Komander made sure he didn't discriminate, inviting dudes up to partake in the whisky shots gulps during, "El Centenario." The liquid fire streamed down some chins, but others made sure they didn't waste a drop.

He interacted easily with everyone, drunk or not, appeasing fans by posing for pictures and letting women steal a kiss, while drunken guys fumbled on stage for a hug and a drink.He didn't turn a single person away and seemed to really enjoy the love and adulation. While some fans are lucky to get a guitar pick or drum stick from a band; Rios threw an autographed bullet-proof vest into the crowd.

By the end of the night I was bobbing up and down, and considered trying my luck on stage with the bottle of Scotch. Ultimately, I settled for a whisky and water from the bar.


Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: El Komander at Celebrity Theatre

The Crowd: Cowboy and trucker hat wearing Latinos, and mini skirt-clad ladies.

Personal Bias: OK, that little exchange I imagined with El Komander totally came from a scene in Andy Samburg's Hot Rod. [Editor's Note: An American classic.]

Random Notebook Dump: And that's how you get alcohol poisoning.

More pictures from last night's show on the next page.

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