Calle 13, the Puerto Rican hip hop-reggaeton fusion group known for astute social commentary and Caribbean groove put on a rowdy, provocative show Saturday at the Pedregal Event Center in San Antonio de Belén. The band was in Costa Rica promoting the release of their album, “Multi_Viral,” which debuted in March.
Step-brothers René Pérez and Eduardo Cabra — known by their stage names Residente and Visitante — and their half-sister Ileana Cabra Joglar, kicked the show off with “Fiesta de Locos” and “Baile de los Pobres,” setting a festive mood. After firing up the crowd, the duo dove into its more serious material, starting with “El Aguante,” a new single that celebrates tolerance and survival.
The Puerto Rican band first came to fame through White Lion records for the reggaeton song “Atrevete-te-te.” After some initial success, the band reinvented itself with more serious, and often controversial, social and political songs. “Querido FBI,” one of the first overtly political tracks, was released in 2005 as a direct response to the U.S. government’s killing of Puerto Rican revolutionary Filiberto Ojeda Ríos in a botched raid. The song was a hit in Puerto Rico and made people question the band’s status as mere reggeaton artists.
On Saturday night, thousands of university students, high school students and middle-aged professionals danced together at the show, manifesting the ideas of social unity that Calle 13 promotes through their music.
In a display of support for the recent actions of President Luis Guillermo Solís for gay rights, the band brought a rainbow flag on stage, which was met with a roar of approval. The rainbow banner sat on center stage between the Puerto Rican and Costa Rican flags.
Near the end of the show, Calle 13 performed the controversial title track from “Multi_Viral.” Produced in collaboration with Tom Morello, the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine, the song includes lyrics from Julian Assange, the high-profile whistleblower behind WikiLeaks. After some critical words from Pérez about the mainstream media’s failure to criticize governments sufficiently, pictures of Latin American leaders flashed on the stage’s screen while the song was performed and a recording of Assange’s voice reverberated throughout the venue.
In an interview with the New York Times, Pérez described the new album as existential rather than strictly political, and his reflection shined during his performance of “A Dentro.” The song criticizes gangster rappers that promote violence, and the desire of youth to follow those ideas; in the official video that played in the background at the concert, gangsters are shown throwing their weapons and jewelry into a black Maserati as it rolls down a street. Pérez bought the car during Calle 13’s initial run of success, and at the end of the video the Maserati is sent off a cliff, symbolizing the change in thinking he has undergone.
Calle 13 will hit the U.S. next on their tour, playing shows in California, Texas, New York and other states before heading to Europe, then back into Latin America to wrap up the tour.
“Multi_Viral“ is available on iTunes for $9.99