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Alternative & Indie - Released September 14, 2009 | Radio Bemba Because Music
Riding high on the success of La Radiolina (2007), his first internationally released studio album in seven years, Manu Chao embarked on a lengthy tour in 2008 with his band, Radio Bemba, that took him around the world. The live album Baïonarena documents a triumphant concert from the tour that took place in Bayonne, a city in southwestern France in the heart of Basque Country. The 33-song concert set is spread across two CDs in audio, with a bonus DVD featuring the entire two-and-a-half-hour concert in video plus the promotional videos from La Radiolina and a half-hour documentary, Carnet de Voyage. Baïonarena spans the entirety of Chao's career, from his days in the band Mano Negra ("Mala Vida," "Sidi H'Bibi," "Casa Babylon," "The Monkey," "Machine Gun," "Hamburger Fields") all the way up to La Radiolina, which is represented by a half-dozen songs spread across the concert. There are also old favorites like the title track from his solo album debut, Clandestino (1998), as well as the hits from his second album, Próxima Estación: Esperanza (2001) -- "Merry Blues," "Me Gustas Tú," and "Mr. Bobby" -- along with a lot of material that was performed on his first live album, Radio Bemba Sound System (2002). All that's left out is material from Sibérie M'Était Contéee (2004), the French-language album that was little heard outside France. While most of the material on Baïonarena should be familiar to longtime fans, the live versions of these songs often diverge from the originals. For instance, "Clandestino" includes a crowd singalong while "La Primavera" (which includes "Me Gustas Tú") veers off into a riotous protest against U.S. president George W. Bush, whom Chao declares to be the world's deadliest terrorist. In some ways, Chao is best heard as a live performer rather than as a studio artist, particularly in terms of energy and crowd involvement (indeed, he seems to draw his energy from the crowd), and so Baïonarena is something of an ideal greatest-hits collection, even if hits like "Me Gustas Tú" aren't performed in a straightforward manner. More than anyone, fans who have heard Chao's albums a hundred times over will enjoy Baïonarena, for the album casts familiar material in a new light. Newcomers, on the other hand, are better off starting with Radio Bemba Sound System, a double-disc live album from six years earlier that was reissued in 2008 on Nacional Records. It's a better introduction to Chao that includes a lot of the same songs as Baïonarena (with the exception of the La Radiolina material, of course), but they're performed with less haste and rearrangement.
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