Following weeks of hype, the wait was finally over for tens of thousands of music fans as the Festival Imperial took place on April 19 and 20 at La Guácima de Alajuela, northwest of San José.
The first day of the festival saw performances from national group Le*Pop, Grammy-award winning Mexican group Café Tacvba, and Argentines Babasónicos, ahead of headline U.S. acts Incubus and Smashing Pumpkins.
A particular highlight was vast swathes of the crowd singing along to the Incubus classic track “Drive” from the album “Make Yourself.”
Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan, dressed in a striking layered silver skirt, was another hit with the crowds, belting out standards such as “Today,” “Ava Adore” and “1979” during an impressively long set.
The second day of the festival opened with a performance from Mexican alternative band Zoé, who put on a very popular show that perhaps deserved to be higher on the bill. This was followed by a set from Costa Rican group Porpartes before the evening’s big name acts took to the stage.
First up was British singer-songwriter Seal who produced what was arguably the performance of the festival. Dressed in white, the star’s huge stage presence and willingness to interact, including some basic Spanish and a walk about down from the stage, galvanized the crowd, who enthusiastically joined in on songs such as “Kiss from a Rose,” “Killer” and “Crazy.”
Next came Spanish-American pop star Enrique Iglesias, who later confirmed to reporters he was planning further shows in Central America.
British pop icon Duran Duran closed the show with hits “Planet Earth” and “Hungry like the Wolf,” as well as newer tracks from their latest album “Red Carpet Massacre.”
“Yesterday was great but I think today has been more chilled,” said Adriana Vilanova, 18, adding that, with such a good lineup “having a favorite would be a stupid idea.”
The event also passed without major incident. According to organizers, few people required attention from the Red Cross, and those who did were suffering from minor complaints such as dehydration, sunstroke or small cuts and bruises.
Organizers had initially predicted that 46,000 fans would attend over the two days, but Carlos Cañas, brand manager of Imperial told this newspaper that more people may have shown up.
“I think that over the course of the two days, around 48,000 or 49,000 people came.” That is about twice the number that saw Iron Maiden, the last big show in Costa Rica (TT, Feb 29).
“The whole organizing team is extremely happy and thrilled with how the event turned out,” he added.
Cañas also confirmed that this year’s festival would not be a flash in the pan, music to the ears of fans around the country.
“We don’t have a final decision or a date,” he said, “but one thing I can guarantee you is that there will be another Festival Imperial.”