Having already seen Lila Downs once, I knew what to expect this time round, yet, I was still blown away. In front of waving flags and even the Mexican consulate general himself (who for some odd reason was vociferously booed), this Latina darling tore the roof off of the Chan Centre at UBC. Whether singing in Jazz, crossover, or mariachi, Lila Downs had my attention from the moment she hit her amazing first note.
Never have I felt so alive at a show; never have I experienced such an infectious spirit move through me. That is the power of Downs, and a testament to her strength and versatility as an artist. Whether it is her poetic, socially-conscious lyrics, the harmonious sounds of accordions, sax, guitar, and trombone, or the notes that seem to be held for eternity, Lila had the entire audience on their feet in a standing ovation before the last song had even begun.
At times the show was a giant fiesta, at others, it was a subtle reminder of what many Mexican aboriginals suffered through, the economic and social troubles that are rampant throughout the poorer Mexican provinces. Downs doesn’t preach, yet she is undeniably able to evoke an empathy for her fellow countrymen and women that few other contemporary artists are able to capture.
She was playful, and almost seemed to make up the set list as she went along, with many selections booming epic in length. Her voice could do almost anything at will, and her adaptability to different musical styles and tonal qualities is unrivalled.
It was also, for me personally, the first time in ages, where a show has granted me deep and true satisfaction. A happiness and contentment with the direction of my life. It was a profound realization and an almost spiritual salvation (if such a thing does exist in a secular way).
Lila Downs has a way of bringing us all on journey of time, culture, music, language and experimentation. A fun-loving old soul, she is a rare breed of musician; a one-of-a-kind talent that brings meaning and purpose and ideas of justice with her wherever she goes. And she can also sing like no other.