Country music concerts are incredible rarities in Singapore. The most we got over the last 10 years, were Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Hunter Hayes, Kenny Rogers and more recently, The Bellamy Brothers. With the constant conversation on what is country and what is not today, sometimes, the selfish part of me wishes for more successful country-pop/mainstream crossover acts so that we can get what is remotely close to country over here. (Lookin’ at ya, Sam Hunt, and Kelsea Ballerini, and Thomas Rhett, and Carrie Underwood again.)
That said, when I saw “The Last Bandoleros” featured in the weekly BandsIntown email about 3 months back, I got pretty excited. “Holy sh*t!”, I exclaimed. Still struggling with disbelief, I had to check their website. It was real, of course. “I have to see their show here! I don’t care if it’s even a 30-minute set”, I told myself with great certainty.
Here’s the short story: I became a fan of their unique sound very early last year when word got out that the band had signed with Warner Music Nashville. Immediately, I checked out their single on iTunes and really, really liked their soulful harmonies and the catchiness of “Where Do You Go.” Even after, I would occasionally follow some of their radio tour performances, which won me over even more than the one song already had. “I Don’t Want To Know” was growing to be the favorite. So, having the opportunity to chat with them and seeing the guys translate those recorded tunes into a live show was surreal.
Playing 4 tracks from the self-titled project (produced by vocalist and guitarist Jerry Fuentes) and an unreleased song, the signature “Tex-Mex” sound was introduced to Singapore with “Maria.” Unlike most heartbreak anthems, it has an upbeat, almost-euphoric tune to celebrate how “she don’t love me/she don’t’ want me” and the way that ex just “does it good.”
Next up was an unreleased song called “River Man,” where the guys introduced their accordion player, Percy Cardona, and his insane skills. In their attempt to hype up and engage the crowd, the band did a prelude with Diego Navaira (bass and vocals) commanding different pitches of “whoa-oh’s” from everyone. If you ask me, that was pretty successful, as everyone filled the entire stadium with echoes of “whoa-oh’s.” This song fits right in with the music on their EP, especially with an infectious chorus that saw Jerry bobbing his head sideways (“down to the river man, down to the river, to the river”). Mid-way through, the spotlight was on Cardona, who lit up the stage in an instant with his accordion-playing skills like no other.
The “True Detective”-inspired tune, “I Don’t Want To Know,” followed band introductions after, with a breezy, suspense-filled opening. A fan-favorite, the rhythmic song has already racked up half a million streams on Spotify. What I love about this song is how it conjures up a mysterious old western movie scene in my head. Bolstered by haunting and bitter lyrics like,
“where you gonna rest your soul, where you gonna bury your bones, I don’t want to know”
listeners can hardly deny the inevitable arcane feeling that Derek James (guitar and vocals) and the other guys made sure was present in the song. Heck, you know what, I’m actually picturing a country/Spanish version of “Phantom of the Opera” too if that makes any sense.
After taking the crowd through that romantic Sherlock Holmes moment, the guys brought up the energy in the house with their debut single to country radio, “Where Do You Go.” Full of lush harmonies and melodies that will stick in your head, it was no wonder Scott Hendricks (A&R rep and producer), couldn’t budge away from those guys until they signed to Warner Music Nashville.
Closing their 25-minute set was the head-banging, toe-tapping (or feet-stopping) country-rock “Take Me To It,” which was the perfect song to get Sting fans psyched up for the headliner’s set if you ask me.
I can say that majority, if not the entire audience was unfamiliar with The Last Bandoleros. Let’s be real. The locals, unlike me, were there primarily or solely for Sting. But, let’s be honest again. With a roaring applause and loud cheers at the end of their 6-song set, no one can deny that the 4-men band had garnered a whole new fan base from the opposite side of the world.
The Last Bandoleros are true virtuosos in the music industry. And, I’m banking on my last buck that they’ll be headlining stadium and arena shows much sooner, rather than later.