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Latin Magic at the Troubadour: Irene Diaz Opens for Gabby Moreno

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Concert Review of Latin Night at the Troubadour: Irene Diaz

Saturday night was a night of Latin magic at the Troubadour, the venerable West Hollywood club that helped launch the careers of entertainers like Elton John, James Taylor, The Pointer Sisters and Fiona Apple. So it was fitting that this past Saturday night the club hosted Latin Grammy winner Gabby Moreno, acclaimed singer/songwriter David Garza and the incredibly talented rising star, Irene Diaz.

Unfortunately, due to a previous commitment, I could only attend the opening act, but that was enough to get a taste of the treat in store for those who were able to squeeze in for the full show. And I do mean squeeze in. The line to get in had formed outside before 7 pm. The box office was not yet open and the Troubadour staff had not come out to set up the ropes and stanchions. One woman waiting in the line – now wrapped around the corner – said she was here to see Irene Diaz in person after watching her YouTube videos. Given that every seat in the upstairs gallery was full within minutes and by the time Diaz and her accompanist Carolyn Cardoza strode onstage at 8:30, there wasn’t much room on the floor, a lot of people felt the same way.

And they were well rewarded. As she always does, this diminutive Latina with the outsized voice raised the bar a notch. She kicked off the with the fast-moving, complex piano rifts, spiraling melodies and confident lyrics of “Tricky Game” . Heads bobbed and even conversations at the bar quieted. She segued into “Lover’s Sway”, known to her fans through amateur YouTube versions. But sitting on a dark stage in a dramatic cone of light, she played and sang this song recorded on video over two years ago with a maturity and rich, confident voice that the earlier videos only hint is there.

Gaby Moreno

Gaby Moreno

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“Let Me Go” played with Carolyn’s jazz-like backing on the ukulele picked up the pace and elevated the power. Recorded for YouTube at SOFAR in October, Irene loosed the full range of her emotional payload on the room, much to everyone’s delight. It was followed by “Untitled Love Song” – written by Irene – which poured warm honey on the evening, soothing and gently rocking us with one-handed piano and lyrics so poignant you leaned in to catch every word.

The spotlight on Irene and her electric piano shifted to green as if saying, “go!” and she took off with “Frequencies”, set to a driving piano, electronic drum, Carolyn’s ukulele and full-pulsed shimmer effects. Her voice controlled, like a panther on a leash, Irene let it loose in powerful belts and then reigned it in for an intimate internal conversation from the stage. Irene effortlessly coordinated every detail while creating them – a work of art before our eyes and ears.

Diaz finished the set with her signature “Crazy Love”, the only other song from her new EP, I Love You Madly, besides the show opener, “Tricky Game”. It was classic Diaz, full on and heartbreaking both in its delivery and its message. The luminous combination of Irene’s gifted piano and vocals and Carolyn’s tempo on the ukulele were magic.

The performance was a milestone for Diaz and a perfect opener for the evening. She introduced her audience to songs that they may have only known through not-always-the -best fan video or not known at all. The only minor critique is for her choice of songs and their order. Energizing the audience at the outset with the fast tempo piano of “Tricky Game” was a good idea, but ending with the very measured “Crazy Love” left them tamped down when they were ready to stomp and cheer.

It would have worked in a darkened theater setting with a quiet audience, but it lost a little of its punch in less focused venue. A better choice might have been inserting “Crazy Love” in the middle of the set and leaving the crowd with the belting power anthem “ I Am Woman”, whose absence disappointed some in the crowd. . But these are nitpicks. Irene Diaz treated us Saturday night to a sublime voice, world class piano and uniquely passionate songwriting. If she was the warm-up act, I am really sorry I missed the headliners.

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Patrick O'Heffernan