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Solis Finds His Real Strength Playing Solo

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Marco Antonio Solis, former leader of the popular Mexican pop group Los Bukis, is a predictable musician, unsophisticated and just plain dull.

But he also is one of Mexico’s most underrated singer-songwriters. And during an engaging solo concert Saturday night at the Sports Arena that drew a patient crowd of nearly 10,000--fans had to wait until well past midnight for the headliner to hit the stage--Solis proved that there is a reason, after all, for his huge success.

Before Solis left the group a few years ago, Los Bukis had become the ultimate symbol of musica grupera, in which each of the band members dresses alike (usually with white shoes) and the music they generate is an ear-crushing blend of keyboard-based romantic pop that is so bland it makes Enrique Iglesias sound like Sly Stone. Los Bukis became the group in this genre, and all others tried unsuccessfully to emulate the band while serious music lovers made Solis a favorite punching bag.

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Who knew that behind those horrible arrangements there was a prolific creator whose commercial success is rivaled among Mexican singer-songwriters these days only by veteran Juan Gabriel? Solis has reached the masses with a music that seems disposable until a closer listen to the lyrics and melodic structures reveals the singer as an above-average musician trapped in the genre’s own mediocrity.

Solis’ show at the Sports Arena was built around his Grammy-nominated 1996 album, “En pleno vuelo,” but he also played a medley of his most popular Los Bukis hits. He was at his best, though, when he veered from the romanticism of those sappy ballads and cut loose on more upbeat songs. On his trademark pop cumbias, easily the show’s highlights, he makes the genre his own.

The uneven bill included Huracanes del Norte (which had to cut short its set because of sound problems), cumbia-norten~a bombshell Anna Barbara (at her best with intermittent attempts at a sort of cumbia/hip-hop hybrid) and Arkangel R-15, one of the most popular groups in banda music.


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