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Feeling, Feminism and Family Permeate iLe’s Captivating Performance

After a string of European shows, the artist formerly known as Calle 13's little sister kicks off U.S. dates headlining the Pilsen Festival in Chicago.

During her recent show at Sala Apolo, a historic club in Barcelona, iLe preceded each song with an unhurried introduction, the kind of casual, conversational prelude that, like many of the tracks from her first solo record, seemed to come from another era. She referred to her Grammy-winning iLevitable as a “very feminine album” in its point of view, and, describing herself as a feminist, spoke about some of her strong female role models, including her grandmother, Flor Amelia de Gracia, a composer of boleros that are part of her repertoire.

iLe, whose given name is Ileana Cabra Joglar, frequently mentioned her family: her father and mother, her sister and even a nephew who as a toddler contributed lyrics to the chorus of a song. She talked about her brothers, including Eduardo Cabra and Rene Perez Joglar, the founders of Calle 13, the group with whom iLe came of age.

ILe’s assured slow-burning vocals, her command of the stage and her connection with her excellent band made clear that she has outgrown being described as “Calle 13’s little sister.” Still, her show did not yet feel polished, which was a good thing: Wearing a cocktail dress that exposed her tattoos, and heels, her dramatic delivery, though self-aware, stopped short of camp. It was pure feeling when she crouched on the floor to sing a ballad, and her lyrics ranged from vintage-style tropical gems to acoustic pop felt more universal than personally confessional.

When the whole audience ecstatically got up to dig into the dance floor for the sweaty “Te Quiero Con Bugalú,” it was clear that ile has only just begun to explore the reaches of her repertoire. U.S. dates for ile’s current tour start at Chicago’s Pilsen Festival on Aug. 20 and continue in the fall.