It was nearly a sold-out crowd at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts as 80-year-old Oscar D’León jumped, gyrated and kicked to his most popular salsa songs opening with his 1986 hit, “Llorarás” (You will cry).
The Venezuelan Grammy-nominated artist, affectionately known as the Pharoah of Salsa, showed no signs of aging at his high-energy performance on Saturday, Nov. 25. Whether they were couples in the aisles or individuals at their seats, more than 2,000 people were on their feet clapping and singing along with the salsa legend.
“Wonderful, excellent, all those words,” said Nilda “Nice” Morales, 82, from the South Bronx who has been listening to D’León’s music since his early beginnings.
What was more impressive, but not surprising, was D’León’s simultaneous conducting of his 11-piece orchestra.
Born Oscar Emilio León Somoza, D’León started playing coffee cups as percussion as a child according to a 2020 interview with Berklee Global Connections. D’León grew up to play bass, helped formulate several bands, such as La Dimension in 1972 and composed music, before becoming a salsa singing sensation in the ‘80s. And despite gaining fame from his tours throughout the Caribbean islands — like Cuba and Puerto Rico — D’León credits the salsa scene of New York City as a grand inspiration to him throughout his career.
“What made the biggest impression on me was the music of the U.S., especially NYC,” said D’León.
Another fan of the salsero, Margarita Alvira, spoke of her experiences growing up in Puerto Rico listening to D’León’s music as a teenager and how she fell in love with her first boyfriend because of D’León’s song – “Ña merce.”
“I was going to school, he was driving, he was playing that song in his car. I just looked at him and we started talking since then,” said Alvira, 59, who came to the Bronx from Puerto Rico in 1984 and saw D’León in concert for the first time this Thanksgiving weekend. “I’m so glad that I was able to come and see him in person and I had such a nice time.”
On Saturday night, Oscar D’León brought down the house after a non-stop 90-minute set.
“Otra! Otra! (One more! One more!),” shouted the audience and D’León returned for an encore performance of three more songs including “Detalles” (Details).
D’Leon can be caught next at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Atlantic City in February.
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