Text: Sara Arguijo
Photos: Oscar Romero / La Bienal
Voice: José Mercé. Guitar: Pepe Habichuela, Tomatito, Alfredo Lagos. Rhythm: Mercedes García, Chicharito de Jerez, Macano, Manuel Cantarote. Teatro de la Maestranza. October 2nd, 2016
The main mistake was to have thought, as we read on the program, that the mere presence of José Mercé at the Bienal to offer “a recital without concessions”, would be “an event unto itself”. In the first place, because this is a cloaked way to justify his presence at the closure, and secondly, because, let’s not kid ourselves, the Jerez singer has a substantial career, but is, in no way, a “living legend” comparable to Enrique Morente or Juan Peña “Lebrijano”, to name just two singers who also put the finishing touch on the Seville event.
Furthermore, in all honesty, as it stands today, there are few names who could stand alone to bring something historic, as is only warranted, to the closure of a festival that aims to be the world’s showcase of flamenco. Not because there aren’t excellent singers or other performers, but because offering something truly unique, requires programming an in-house production, or taking on a novel proposition, and what Mercé brought was nothing more than a recital, no matter how much it was promoted as being the recording of his Anthology.
Then too, without denying, of course, the singer’s command, his way of projecting through a smile, his luminous voice, clean and brilliant, the fact of the matter is that Mercé didn’t even have a good night, nor did he seem to want to delve much into the forms. Nor was the defective sound of any help, making his voice sound unnatural, as if we were listening to a record, not a live performance.
We enjoyed the three guitarists who provided the accompaniment, Pepe Habichuela, Tomatito and Alfredo Lagos, although it was the latter who contributed the most to Mercé’s performance. In fact, it was in the forms accompanied by Lagos that the singer seemed most comfortable, while he seemed especially lost in the granaína. The best moment of the night was when he broke into some moving siguiriyas in memory of his son Curro, and he also came through in fandangos, alegrías and the fiesta finale of bulerías where he showed his command of the rhythm, his sense of timing and his Jerez heritage.