Cirque du Soleil’s tribute show to Soda Stereo is touring the Americas

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It’s a nostalgia-for-the-early-90s-in-South-America-infused hallucination: a man and a woman sporting neon-bright Mohawks (his green, hers pink) contort their bodies into impossible shapes as they sway above the stage mounted on car-sized, equally neon-bright, handgun-shaped trapezes, while in the background one hears, in Spanish, “don’t look for excuses/ don’t be so cruel/ we will always be fugitives!”

The delirious visuals come courtesy of Cirque du Soleil, the venerable French Canadian circus/theater troupe/entertainment emporium, which has ably taken advantage of its meteoric rise to success by expanding across the globe. The sound belongs to Soda Stereo, the equally venerable, though not quite as widely known, stadium rock band from Argentina, which rose to superstardom in the 1980s and eventually reached iconic status across Latin America.

The show, which carries the cumbersome title of “Sép7imo Día – No Descansaré” (“Seven7h Day – I Will Not Rest”) is the brainchild of writer/director Michael Laprise. The Cirque veteran recognized not only the enormous popularity of Soda Stereo across the region but also the intense, visceral connection it was able to forge with its fans. Laprise says that such emotional bonding with the audience is at the heart of the Cirque experience, and that the match between the two was easy to visualize. He worked closely with the two surviving members of Sosa Stereo, bassist Zeta Bosio and drummer Charly Alberti (singer and frontman Gustavo Cerati died in 2014), to create a synthesis that felt authentic to devotees of both acts.

Indeed, there are many similarities between Soda Stereo and Cirque du Soleil. Both built their brands with loud, unapologetically bombastic work. Virtually all of Soda Stereo’s hits are rock anthems, best enjoyed while being sung in chorus with tens of thousands of other concertgoers. The lyrics, influenced by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and early Argentine rockers such as Charly García, are inventive, often opaque, yet easy to memorize. Their shows were deafening, effects-driven extravaganzas, not unlike Cirque shows.

Both will choose the broad, grand gesture over subtlety or nuance, and both engage in constant self-mythologizing. It may be that what attracted Laprise and Cirque to Soda Stereo was its musical canonization, particularly after the death of Cerati. This can be problematic.

It’s enough to listen to the narration throughout “Sép7imo Día” to see how easily it devolves into maudlin garishness. “Sometimes in life,” it begins, “magical encounters occur. They make each one feel like a better person, more vital than if they were alone. The same happens between a band and its audience.” And so it goes, on and on. Some cynical observer may note that Cirque du Soleil and Soda Stereo share a highly developed talent for disguising banality as profundity.

This is not to say that the show is ugly or unimpressive. The scenic design is up to the insane standards set by previous Cirque shows and includes giant metal flowers, a massive saucer that rises up and down from the stage (and sometimes is the stage), and a twenty-foot-tall aquarium for an underwater acrobatic dance. And unlike previous productions, which may feel too stodgy or formal, by all accounts “Sép7imo Día”  performances are raucous affairs where the audience knows by heart every word of every song.

It was a gamble, which has indubitably paid off. Cirque had produced tribute shows before, but always for musicians with a built-in global audience – – Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, The Beatles – – never for a band with such limited regional name recognition. But, as it turned out, that was enough. The show was a smash hit in Argentina and Peru, it’s currently set to open in Costa Rica, with tour dates scheduled for Guatemala, Florida, California, and Paraguay.

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