Concert Review: Paco de Lucía — The Rock Star of Flamenco Guitar
There was nothing in the program about the pieces he and his fellow musicians would be playing, but no one seemed to care. Most already knew the music from Paco de Lucía’s recordings. They were coming to hear him live, and there was not an empty seat to be seen in the Boston Opera House.
By Susan Miron
While the great flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía was unknown to me until yesterday, he was the object of adoration if not idolatry by the teeming mob at the Boston Opera House (sponsored by World Music/CRASHarts) on Wednesday night. We were among the English-speaking minority at the performance; Paco de Lucía, who is a Spaniard, has a serious Spanish-speaking fan base, though anyone who catches his performances on YouTube has doubtless become a fan as well.
The large concession stand briskly sold black t-shirts with his face, baseball caps, sweatshirts, and most importantly, his just-released double CD (Paco de Lucía: En Vivo). Known for his innovations and extraordinary musicianship and creativity, de Lucía dwarfs most—if not all other—flamenco guitarists and, for that matter, guitarists period. And he plays with the best in the business.
The CD, his 25th, features much of the music that appeared on last night’s show, which is helpful if you need titles. The show started with enthused applause and then fell silent when Paco settled into a lengthy, entrancing guitar solo. “I go onstage to realize myself, to express the best that I have inside of me,” the guitarist has said. “It’s the sensation of always looking for the unexpected, the surprise of finding it—it’s very complicated . . . When you play live, it is who and what you are.”
There was nothing in the program about the pieces he and his fellow musicians would be playing, but no one seemed to care. Most already knew the music from de Lucía’s recordings. They were coming to hear him live, and there was not an empty seat to be seen.
After Paco’s astonishingly virtuosic opening solo, where he really got to show his stuff, the rest of the evening included seven other superb musicians with one, Ferruco, doubling as a fabulous flamenco dancer. The gifted second guitar, Antonio Sánchez, sat next to de Lucía, who is also his uncle. Three dramatically different types of singers were on the guitarist’s left side. When they were not singing, the singers clapped their hands at various volumes, sometimes so quietly it was inaudible. On his right was a stunningly virtuosic keyboard and harmonica player, Antonio Serrano, who actually makes the recalcitrant among us love the harmonica. Who knew a harmonica could sound anywhere near this great?
Next to Serrano sat a Cuban electric Latin/jazz bass guitar player, Alain Pérez. The busy percussion player, Israel Suárez Escobar (a.k.a. Piraña), was the sensitive heartbeat of the music. It would have been nice to have had all the unusual instruments he played listed. I suspect one was a Afro-Peruvian instrument found in Cuba and Peru, a cajon. Each of the musicians was exceptional, a virtuosity that was made abundantly clear when each has an opportunity to solo.
When the evening began there were eight rays of misty, green lights aimed (four on both sides of the stage) at Mr. de Lucía. These lights displayed a predictable rainbow of colors, but it was rather nice visual effect (lighting design by Keith Yetton).The amplification, which I usually cannot tolerate, was perfectly calibrated (sound by José Cervera—bravo!), making each of the guitars sound gorgeous despite the cavernous space. All eight musicians managed to create an intimate sound; the amplification was that spot-on.
Throughout the evening, the music often felt more like jazz than flamenco; the format like the old-time big band performances with each player getting a chance to show off his impressive stuff. The evening’s most remarkable performances were the opening solo of Mr. de Lucía and the performance of Farruco, a scion of a famed flamenco dynasty who can give any flamenco dancer anywhere a run for his or her money.
That the audience loved the concert was clear by the cheering (sometimes during as well as after) each number. When the concert ended, I thought a riot would break out. “Otra! Otra! Otra!” (Another) they all shouted for several noisy minutes. The encore was long and wonderful and included a long solo for percussion. I would venture most of the audience would be happy hearing another hour of Paco de Lucía and company. They will have to settle for the two CD set, which I listened to happily all day.