‘Young Love’ makes audience bitter, Cuco is dulce relief

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There’s something vastly disappointing about showing up to one event and realizing it is an entirely different excursion altogether. Imagine preparing to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” donning lingerie and rocking some intense make-up — only to find that you have to watch two hours of “Planet Earth” before you go in. This scenario is not unlike the experience of attending “Young Love with Cuco.”

Doors for the event opened Saturday night at 7 p.m. to a snaking line of energetic Cuco fans wrapping around the outside of San Francisco’s The Regency Ballroom. For those prepared patrons, the night was to be full of great anticipation, some B-grade indie music and amateur rap — and all before it even officially started.

While the Facebook event for the show offered little information about the other performances of the night, “Young Love with Cuco” featured five other smaller acts before the main man even showed up. Though the music of Niña, the first opener, offered nice atmospheric vibes for the crowd funneling in, its lead singer had an underwhelming stage presence; her go-to move was to sway her long hair back and forth while making eyes at the guitarist.

J-kwe$t followed Niña’s performance with an energetic rap set. Wearing a Supreme sweatshirt and a bucket hat, the rapper bopped around the stage with frenetic and unpolished vibrance, his voice barely breaking past the track it was following. On top of that, he continuously threw water on an already irritated crowd. Los Retros succeeded J-kwe$t with what was the best of the second-tier sets. And though its intimate, house show performance was light and fun, at this point it was hard to have any enjoyment for the band, overshadowed by the question: “Where is Cuco?”

By the time Cuco stepped onto the stage at 10:50 p.m., the crowd had endured a catalogue of at least five separate opening performances. There was indeed a great deal of frustration coming from the crowd around number four, unanimously and angrily chanting “Cuco” at every opportunity. But any disgruntlement subsided when Cuco began to sing. It took one song and a man parading a large Mexican flag across the stage — the red, white and green draped in the fuchsia lighting — to restore the audience’s faith in him.

For an artist whose music elicits the image of a peaceful cerulean drive down a sun-kissed coast, Cuco was more than capable of getting the crowd bouncing around to the tune of his melodic vocal twitches. The audience almost overpowered Cuco during his performance of “Lover is a Day,” the crowd ready with every lyric.

In fact, despite losing some voices during the songs that featured mostly Spanish lyrics, this audience participation was consistent throughout. “Lo Que Siento” was the caramelo on top of the helado in this performance, with Cuco’s languid drawls and transitions between English and Spanish leaving a butter-smooth and chocolate-sweet taste on the audience’s tongues. As he sang, “Eres lo que yo anhelaba en esta vida que me falta / Lo que siento is surreal / I can’t lie to you for real,” almost every voice in the venue was screaming the words back to him.

It’s undeniable that Cuco is one of the most versatile young artists today. Whether it be changing the mood of the entire crowd in a second, performing to near perfection in Spanish and English or pulling out and playing a trumpet midshow, he showed his deft musical skills throughout the set. “Amor De Siempre” highlighted all these talents. With the lyrics “Mi canción de amor ahorita, cuando me dices ‘te amo’ / Quiero ver esa sonrisa, en mi cama al amanecer,” he had the audience falling in love, trailing the song off gleefully with his trumpet trills.

And though the performances that led up to Cuco’s mellifluous set were disappointing, it’s emblematic of his character that he closed the show by bringing his fellow artists back onto the stage to perform “CR-V.” As the audience and the performers buoyantly danced to this final song, it was beyond evident that everyone in attendance that night felt just like homies riding in Cuco’s Honda CR-V.

Maisy Menzies is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].