Photo / David Jimenez

The Aida Cuevas  “Totalmente Juan Gabriel” concert  was a pleasant  opening Sat. Sept. 29,  that inaugurated the new season of  the CSUN based Younes Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts. 

The stage was beautifully set for Cuevas’ performance  with a large screen that projected impressive colorful images, proud scenes of Mexico’s indigenous people, rich landscapes and the waving Mexican flag. 

The CSUN orchestra provided a lovely accompaniment to  the “Queen of Ranchera Music” with the powerful Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlán.   

It was heartwarming to see the diverse faces that make up the CSUN orchestra get the opportunity to reach beyond typical music training to perform what is regarded as the equally classical music found in Mexico’s Mariachi music. 

It was also fitting as Juan Gabriel performed many times with both Mariachis at the foreground  of the stage and a full orchestra behind them that added  to the emotionally riveting large sound of his music.      

As a sparkling Cuevas dramatically entered the stage wearing an exquisite red traditional dress, she was met with enthusiastic applause. The audience was  ready to sing along and enjoy a night filled with their favorite Juan Gabriel songs. 

Cuevas is the only performer who has permission from Gabriel’s estate to record and tour his music. 

However, the audience found the concert fell short when Cuevas sang too few of Gabriel’s songs and Cuevas reverted back to Mexico’s traditional standards, that included Volver Volver and Viva Mexico!

The audience erupted in big applause when Cuevas sang Amor Eterno and anytime she sang one of Gabriel’s songs but they were too few and far in between.  She did sing Te Lo Pido Por Favor, Te Sigo Amando, and La Diferencia.

It was however, especially moving when she she sang with a recording of Juan Gabriel as his performance  was projected on the screen. 

Some people called out their favorite Juan Gabriel songs from the audience to encourage Cuevas  to give them the concert they had expected to hear.  But the Grammy Awarded singer  didn’t deviate from her rehearsed show that according to a spokesperson at the Soraya was planned to devote the first half of the show to Juan Gabriel and the second half to Cuevas. 

While Cuevas always provides a wonderful concert, based on audience comments after the show, explaining that the show would be split in half ahead of time would have been helpful and prevented the shout outs from the crowd. 

This show is promoted  to be the start of a 23-city tribute tour to beloved Juan Gabriel who passed away in 2016. 

A complete tribute is what audiences are hungry for and so far at  this opening concert, Cuevas didn’t  give her audience enough for a full, “totalmente” happy stomach.