After starting out with a harsh, warbling vibrato, Vicente Fernandez quickly put his powerful tenor aright Friday evening to prove why he’s still the king of rancheras , a Mexican ballad style roughly akin to country music. But to say that Fernandez sang well in the first of his two evenings at Anaheim’s Celebrity Theatre isn’t enough. Fernandez, like the Jose Alfredo Jimenez classic--"Hijo del Pueblo” (“Son of the People”)--he sings, embodies the honest, unpretentious warmth and stubborn dignity of common working folks.
His rancheras fatalistically affirm a man’s honor and word in the face of death and calamitous love. But for those who’ve endured economic and natural catastrophes, corrupt governments and dehumanizing borders, his songs are nothing less than heroic metaphors of survival.
The half-empty concert hall seemed to insinuate the twilight of a once bigger-than-life tradition. The audience, now thriving in these Southland suburbs of Guadalajara or Morelia, finds itself light years from Fernandez’ mythic countryside.