To borrow a phrase from a very different Spanish passion, the concert by flamenco virtuoso Vicente Amigo was a game of two halves.
Tonight's spectacle at Bab al Makina was almost sold out and the audience included flamenco fans from across the generations. It opened with a solo by Amigo, alone on the vast stage but commanding it completely with his presence. Much of the piece sounded improvised and audiences members shouted, gasped and clapped at his inventiveness.
Thereafter, he was joined on stage by a further guitarist, a flamenco vocalist and palmista and an exceptional percussionist. Together, they presented an hour of flamenco excellence. The music was occasionally jazzy, often lamenting and bluesy, and frequently spontaneous and improvised. The success of the performance lay in the constant communication between all four artists and the evident joy with which they played together to bring their craft to others. Their energy was reciprocated by the audience, with several groups joining in with the flamenco clapping.
For the second part of the show, Vicente and co. were joined by a symphony orchestra of over 25 members conducted by Aziz al Achhab, Director of the Festival dans la Ville for the Fes Sacred Music Festival. The orchestral pieces were very string-biased and rather than complementing the flamenco artists, the arrangement turned something that had been spontaneous and visceral into a blander, diluted version of itself. The whole thing ended up sounding like the soundtrack to a cheesy 1970s romantic film.
Neither did the Spaniards appear to enamoured with the attempted fusion. Although the capacity audience seemed to like the whole event and were on their feet at the end, this was perhaps another example of where too much fusion can be a bad thing. A full-length concert of the flamenco artists alone, in particular Vicente Amigo, would have done them better justice and would have been enabled the magic created in the first half to continue throughout.
Review and photographs Lynn Houmdi
|The addition of the orchestra failed to impress|