Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club ® featuring Omara Portuondo | The Auditorium, Rome | 2 July, 2010

Summer may have been a long time coming in Rome this year with one of the coldest and wettest springs for decades, but July has heralded its arrival with sudden torrid temperatures. Summer in Rome means a rich and varied programme of music concerts all over the city and one of the best is surely Luglio Suona Bene which takes place every year in the open air Cavea at the Auditorium Parco della Musica. I can think of no better way of passing a balmy Rome evening than enjoying the perfect acoustics of the Auditorium's amphitheatre.

Omara Portuondo dancing on stage in Rome July 2010

Friday evening saw the return of the Cuban band Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club which features many of the surviving veterans of Buena Vista Social Club who became surprise international stars after the success of Wim Wenders' documentary about them in 1999 and the release of a concert recording they made at Carnegie Hall the previous year. In fact, the original line up only ever played two concerts together and whilst many of its already elderly members such as Compay Segundo, Rubén González and Ibrahim Ferrer have since died, the Orchestra continues to tour the world celebrating the Havana club and its performers that gave the group its name, as well as promoting new Cuban musicians such as the brilliant young pianist Rolando Luna, who was joined on stage by Social Club stalwarts like Guajiro Mirabal on trumpet, orchestra director Jesus Aguaje Ramos on trombone, guitarist Manuel Galbán and lute player Barbarito Torres.

Setlist - click thumbnail to enlarge
It was a young and exceptionally enthusiastic crowd that packed the Cavea on Friday night and having seen the guest star of the evening, Cuban diva (the diva “sexy” as she was teasingly nicknamed by the band in introductions) Omara Portuondo twice before in more demur circumstances, I was genuinely surprised and delighted by the ecstatic welcome she received with twenty-somethings giving her a standing ovation and cheering her appearance for the second half of the show. At almost eighty she is still in incredible voice and would seem to have limitless energy, dancing and joking on the stage. When the band came back on stage for the inevitable encore of Candela, it was Omara who called the other members back - she herself had remained on stage, seeming reluctant to leave the party!

After the show I was lucky enough to get a setlist from one of the roadies who kindly let me have the last one left. The running order isn't quite as listed, but it's a great souvenir of the night nevertheless.

Watch the finale of the concert below or click here to watch on YouTube.