Manu Chao, Nottingham Rock City, Wednesday November 7th
If you’ve ever hung out in a backpacker bar in Koh Samui on your gap year, necking cheap sangria, smoking roll-ups and discussing world politics, then Manu Chao’s music will need no introduction. As the spiritual heir to the late Joe Strummer, he is one of the few remaining international performers who still dares to wear his ideology on his sleeve – although with his frizzy hair, thick scarlet bandanna and lurid green shirt slashed to the navel, he owes his look more to Keith Richards.
A massive star in continental Europe, Manu is much less well known in the UK. Consequently, relatively intimate venues such as Rock City must be a welcome novelty for him and his band. Their delighted looks throughout last night’s marathon set said it all, their enthusiasm more than matched by the ecstatic crowd reaction.
That said, the band stuck to a rigid formula, alternating between loping reggae and frantic, breakneck ska-punk, laced with Latin overtones. There were more “mi corazons” than you could shake a stick at, interspersed with the sort of cod-Jamaican “ma-yo-yo-yo” chanting that Sting popularised a generation ago. For the uninitiated, the formula swiftly wore thin. For the majority, those blissful backpacking memories were skilfully evoked.