I will say I just so happened to marry into an Hispanic name and so learning about all things Latin with my new husband has been fun, including his pretty intense admiration for the “King of the Rancheras.” So in attending Fernández’ concert, I might have picked up a word or two (or frequently entire verses as my husband played translator) here and there and generally understood the songs were about love or pain or being the “king” of everything.
But on Sunday, in the company of nearly 1,000 from the Hispanic community as they cheered wildly for one of Spanish music’s greats, I could really experience the fervor, the glee and the downright – as my husband rightfully stated – machismo of Fernández as the elegant yet commanding performer he is in the longest concert I’ve ever attended. Whether it was his slow but ornate movements all around the stage, embracing the cameras for fans to get a closer look at “El Idolo” of Mexico, crooning to a number of younger and older women in the crowd, taking frequent sips of brandy that his stage hands were quick to refill or smoking a cigarette during his version of “My Way,” or “A Mi Manera,” Fernández was not only in control, he was theatrical and invincible.
Fernández’s set consisted of the oldest and newest of his hits, but it didn’t matter what the song was, whether it was “Las llaves de mi alma” (“The Keys to My Soul”), “El ultimo beso” (“The Last Kiss”) or “La ley del monte” (“The Law of the Mountain”). Fernández’s music pines for love just as easily as it curses it.
Dressed in full mariachi regalia, he relaxed after the first few songs, letting his tie, removing his large sombrero and throwing his tie to the ground. Song after song, he cupped his ears when fans shouted in approval. He shook both fists up and down, purely relishing the moment song after song, always grinning and never stopping.
Two of the bright musical moments of the night included “El rey” (“The King”) and the closing song “Volver, Volver.” Voices were raised and spirits were high as Fernández wiped his sweat with cloths, especially when singing songs about immigration and Mexican pride.
He was adept at commanding the stage and the crowd when he drank a flask was thrown at him when, for a brief period, his brandy glass had not been refilled quickly enough to keep up with his pace.
As powerful his voice was on his own, the impact of his music was enhanced by his orchestra, which was referred to as the Mariachi Azteca. An 11-piece formation of men on the violins, trumpets and guitars gave the traditional sound of mariachi and they, too, never seemed to grow tired. Fernández introduced Enrique Cortez, who offered up a solo, and whom the “King” said was as relentless as he is.
Preceding Fernández was Shaila Dúrcal, daughter of the late Rocio Dúrcal and goddaughter of Fernández, had a chance to shine on her own merit. Though she sings mostly Latin pop and ballads, her new album due out in July will consist of all ranchera music. She enchanted the audience for about 30 minutes and immediately led into her famous godfather’s presence.
For every concertgoer on Sunday, Fernández was an extremely rare opportunity. To the audience’s pleasure, he promised to return to Reno next year, knowing they loved how he does things his way.