Alex Cuba Jane Mallett Theatre, Toronto ON, October 27

Alex Cuba Jane Mallett Theatre, Toronto ON, October 27
Photo: Carrie Musgrave
"It wasn't easy for me to move the show in April to October and then again in October," says Juno and Latin Grammy winner Alex Cuba.

The Cuban-Canadian BC singer-songwriter's performance last night (October 27), in support of his fifth solo album, Healer, was a long time coming. "It was meant to be," said Cuba. Performing as part of an eclectic, Latin-fused four-piece band, Cuba delivered the show with enough energy and charm that it was worth the wait.

"Everytime," an upbeat, smooth song, was an obvious crowd favourite and the do, do, dos in "Half a Chance" were contagious; it helped that drummer Jake Jenne's sung take on Ron Sexsmith's usual guest appearance was better than good.

It was "Logica" that truly demonstrated the band's chemistry, though. Cuba ripped suave guitar licks throughout the night that could easily have stolen the show were it not for the impassioned Latin percussion, groovy bass and head-nodding snares that his band provided and blended, seemingly effortlessly. Cuba's overall stage presence was endearing, but it often wasn't enough to engage the mature audience, who at times seemed too modest to play along. 

Still, Cuba's stage presence was captivating. At one point, Cuba mentioned his songs would seem even more conversational if you understand Spanish. Lines like "Baby, if you cook the way you dance, I will eat everything on my plate!" which Cuba translated, hinted at what the majority Anglo crowd was missing out on. The passion and general emotive tone of Cuba's songs balanced the language void, though —even if like most you didn't understand the lyrics, you felt it.

What would have been the last song, "In 1 2 3 4," a duet originally between David Myles and Cuba, was sung by Cuba and his bass player, Ian Olmstead, whose humble vocals filled in admirably under Cuba's soaring Spanish falsettos. Ending with an encore performance doubling as a mini Spanish lesson, "Si pero no" was a reminder of Cuba's strengths, jazzy, infectious, body-moving songs. Playfully, Cuba partially sang the chorus, while, at last completely won over, the audience joined in.