Text: Pablo San Nicasio
Photos: Sergio Nagore
Review of José Mercé's concert in Suma Flamenca 2013
Teatros del Canal. Suma Flamenca 2013
In recent years, Suma Flamenca has based the greater part of its program on late-night shows at Madrid tablaos or night-spots. These establishments seem to be returning to life, at least in the capital. Theaters have not been as fortunate.
From these tablaos came José Mercé, with the baggage of many years, decades, to climb the ladder in this difficult art-form. A clearly talented singer, with an image that borders on that of a film-star, this man from Jerez is one of the living pioneers in this practice of broadening the aesthetic horizons of flamenco beyond traditional cante. “Amanecer” launched him into orbit, and from that point on he handily filled any venue. And he did whatever it took to pull that off, whether flamenco or other things.
So the Suma festival was betting on a sure thing when they programmed him in the hardest place to work, the Teatro del Canal. The red room, which in previous years was hard to fill, last night saw a every seat occupied.
But it wasn’t only that. Even before getting down to business, you already heard dozens of people calling out “olé!”, and “so handsome!” The audience was thusly tucked in his pocket before singing a single note.
He began with the malagueña of “El Mellizo” and went on to soleá and the siguiriya of Manuel Torre. Sheer delight for fans of classic flamenco singing. Mercé could easily have dashed off the usual crowd-pleasers, but chose instead to stick to traditional cante right through to the end. The easy praise cooled down, and an impeccable recital followed. One of the best Mercé has given in Madrid. Generous, and remembering his beloved Morao, “one of the best of the twentieth century and the twenty-first”.
Alongside him, Diego, who evoked his father’s playing a number of times, especially in the rhythmic forms. He is a fine guitarist, possibly the maximum representative of this glorious dynasty, an artist who takes us directly to the heart of flamenco.
The two of them, extremely at ease with the repertoire, engrossed in the music and in their respective roles at this point in time within the flamenco panorama.
In the second part there was a wide selection of verses for alegrías de Cádiz, followed by even better free-form fandangos. José Mercé no longer competes with anyone, not in his records and not in his recitals. We don’t know if he ever did, but his effect on the masses is such that he doesn’t need to at all. Truly hypnotic beginning with the bulerías, stepping away from the mike and offering some nice dance bits.
And all the while, the persistent thought: is the show actually coming to an end? The group stands to bow, and from the audience there are shouts of “Aire”. We didn’t know if it was the need for ventilation to recover from the shock of only 45 minutes of singing, or if they were asking for the legendary song of about ten years ago.
It was the latter. And Mercé obliged despite the fact that it wasn’t his tone, too deep, but he made it work without having prepared it thanks to years of repetition. But…was it really the end? Bulerías encore and the curtain descends. One hour to the minute, and we were in the street, just like that. We don’t know if that was the deal he had, but no matter how you look at it, it was a short recital, minuscule, bordering on incredible. The audience gave an exuberant standing ovation all the same. It must be me, overly anxious and demanding, who would have wanted more. Blame it on the recession.