José Manuel Gómez GUFI
Photos & video – Rafael Manjavacas
50 años de El Pele. Teatro Nuevo Alcalá de Madrid.
18 December, 2017.
The singing of El Pele is a sudden blaze that bursts out in a flash and sets fire to anyone in its path, more or less like a wildfire. You go into the new Alcalá theater and remember that in the old one, you’d seen Dizzy Gillespie, the Chicago Art Ensamble, Piazzolla, Sun Ra and also Fernanda and Bernarda, Paco de Lucía’s “Solo Quiero Caminar”, Pata Negra and many geniuses of popular music, and we know how hard it is to fill a venue like this in Madrid on a Monday with unsettling organization in the politics of communication.
The fact is, there was El Pele celebrating his 50-year career, and his friends were there, and it was a concert of short blasts, the kind that burn your face if you get too close. The first blast was with pianist Dorantes and Miguel Poveda singing Manolo Caracol, who as you know, had supernatural powers singing under his breath, or at least that’s what Lola Flores had to say about his whispers. Everything began full of communicative intensity with David’s piano, but not even Pele or Miguel are the kind to indulge in singing softly, and after a short time they’d turned it all into a friendly facing-off, and gentle arm-wrestling that leaves your arm out-of-whack. Poveda said it was a privilege to be there, and we were all in agreement, we hadn’t gone out on a Monday since the “Flamenco Mondays” of the Revólver.
Pele sang soleá: “estaba soñando conmigo y la dejé dormir” [‘she was dreaming of me and I let her sleep’], which he recorded with Jorge Pardo on the record “Djinn” at one of the high points of the recording, and he belted it out sitting right there between Pedro El Granaíno and Arcángel. This is where you have to appreciate the rigorous artistic design of the concert, adding voice and rhythm to the offering.
El Pele has managed to outlive his greatest success, that record he made with Vicente Amigo from which he reprised a song that would have been hard to forget, or to remember, depending on the moment. That “Poeta de Esquinas Blandas” that contained one of the greatest choruses of our musical history: “Vengo del Moro”. A melody that was even sung by those ladies that dance sevillanas to satisfy the neighbors and show off a bit. A cutting-edge song as they say nowadays, the kind that breaks with the communicative funnel policy flamenco is subjected to. A real hit. The decisive moment of any concert, the reason a lot of new fans have to pay a small fortune for tickets. The song cited by politicians who only know one other, “Entre dos Aguas”, “La Chica de Ayer”, “Volando Voy”, “Vengo del Moro” or “Los Tiempos Están Cambiando”, and Pele goes and comes up with a violinist from his city, Paco Montalvo, who sets the melody on fire, and…
Nothing…not even handclaps, nor a chorus, nor “the wave”, something quite normal in a proper concert. We’ve become a bunch of flamencoholics, and it hurts to say it, and I almost bleed when I put it in writing: we’re disgustingly transcendental.
Whatever… Manuel Moreno Maya gestured as if to say now was the time for hell-raising and confusion, and the entire audience joined in. Including myself, the first one. I understand it’s wrong, such things are ugly.
A bunch of friends joined in. Toñi Fernández, María Terremoto, Sorderita, Encarna Anillo, José Anillo… And there were explosions and outbursts for all tastes.
And Lin Cortés came on with an affectionate gesture towards his uncle, a gesture of complicity and avant-garde rock and what have you. A kind of “now you’re really going to find out” sort of thing, and as Tino Digeraldo on drums, Carles Benavent on bass and Jorge Pardo on flute were all hot, and triggering cheers of “ole!” and such, they took on “El Alma” from Lin Cortés’ recording, with his hair combed back like Hendrix, knowing that he had five or six minutes to stop the planet from turning and get it rocking back and forth. And El Pele reached the heights, and since he had no flag, and it wasn’t Everest, he embraced Benavent because it was a worthwhile project, and bulerías came out…and Pitingo appeared, and the above-mentioned friends, and it was a great idea to have gone out on Monday.