POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Di Blasio Plays With Bold Vitality at Universal

To lump Argentina's Raul Di Blasio in with the likes of lightweight French pianist Richard Clayderman is a big mistake. Di Blasio may, too, be a big seller who often concentrates on romantic material, but he's a stirring player with wonderfully bold instincts.

His Los Angeles debut Saturday night at the sold-out Universal Amphitheatre was an important step in the musician's campaign to reach for a larger U.S. audience--and he responded with a show that was intimate and classy.

Focusing on material from "Piano de America 2," his latest and best album, Di Blasio's 22-song set was an eclectic mix of mostly Latin American pop and folk classics as well as a few of his own compositions. The material ranged from Paraguayan harp songs to "Evita," but he was at his best with "Caminito" and "El dia que me quieras," playing tango the way it should be played--vehemently.

Instead of the corny, sentimental demeanor of so many easy listening stars, Di Blasio, who was backed by a seven-piece band, was spontaneous and personable--both in his playing and in his asides to the audience between songs.

It was a richly satisfying performance, one that not only established Di Blasio as a major pop crossover candidate, but that also showed that the easy-listening genre can have vitality and heart.

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