There was only one good reason to trek it from Los Angeles to Bakersfield, CA this past Friday night: I got a backstage VIP pass to the kick-off concert to Juanes' highly anticipated 2013 "Loud and Unplugged" summer tour.
Without exaggerating, I can say that Juanes and his bandmates – Rafael Sandoval on the sax, Edilberto Lievano on the trombone, Orlando Barreda on the trumpet, Juan Pablo Daza and Fernando Tobon on guitar, Felipe Navia on bass, Felipe Alzate and Richard Bravo on percussion, Waldo Madera on drums, and Emmanuel Briceño on the keyboard - have never sounded tighter.
For one, Juanes has never toured with a full horn section. Then again, if you've listened to Juanes' MTV Unplugged album you know that he has strived for (and undoubtedly reached) a new level of musicianship. El maestro Juan Luis Guerra (who executive produced the Unplugged album) had a little something to do with that.
Whatever you do, don't miss the chance to check Juanes out when he comes your way (peep the tour dates here).
And if you've ever wondered what it's like to experience a Juanes show from the inside, this should give you an idea …
A Juanes show means tight security. Unless of course you can get your hands on one of these. Then you're in like swimwear.
Back in his dressing room, Juanes warms up his vocals. A humidifier always helps.
So does hot tea and honey.
I wouldn't say Juanes is a superstitious man, but he is a man of faith. He always wears this rosary around his neck, which he had custom-made some years ago and combines the rosary which his mother Alicia gave him and another one which his wife Karen and their daughters Luna and Paloma gifted him.
When he finally comes out of his dressing room, Univision cameras are waiting for him.
On his way to the stage, Juanes catches up with some old friends and familiar faces.
Raquel Sofia Borges isn't only Juanes' back-up singer (along with Miguel Angel Mejia), she's also his protégée and the opening act on his 2013 tour. But don't mistake this pretty face for your average pop dilettante; she plays her own instruments, writes her own material, and girlfriend can sing. The Puerto Rican singer/songwriter gained quite a few fans at Juanes' first show. I suspect she'll have a similar effect in every city of this tour. Don't believe me? Listen for yourself.
There's always that quiet moment of meditation before a show. Here, Juanes prepares mentally to deliver an amazing show.
Crowd adores him.
It's not a Juanes show without at least one huge Colombian flag.
Calm and relaxed post-show. It is just me or does this man age in reverse?
We migrate from Juanes' dressing room to his tour bus.
The tour bus is hardly visible at night, which helps keep a low profile.
But of course nothing stops the average superfan from getting close enough to Juanes to snap a pic with him.
Doesn't Juanes' tour bus remind you a cozy cabin in Aspen? A plush leather interior, a state-of-the art sound system, a fully stocked bar and fridge, and a flat screen ensure no one gets bored.
On to the next city!