It is difficult to write about a flamenco concert without spewing clichés about the passion, the emotional intensity and the infectious rhythms: I’ll try to keep them to a minimum but I make no promises. Last night Gerardo Núñez set Sadler’s Wells alight with his concert of classic fiery flamenco, infused with technical Latin rhythms and a sense of pure personal passion. Núñez is joined once again by his lifelong collaborator and wife, the bewitching Carmen Cortés, as she dazzles with her mesmerising ‘flamenco puro’ dance.
Núñez has played the guitar for fifty years, studying and performing with the finest in his field from folky ensembles to grand theatrical productions in Paris, New York and Havana. He’s perfectly at ease therefore in front of the 1500-strong crowd of the Sadler’s Wells main house, holding his guitar as if it were another limb, an inseparable part of him. Núñez is the driving force of the evening, setting the tone for each piece with his intricate ‘falseta’ interludes, masterfully creating melodic stories and shaping the mood of each piece of music with his nimble fingers.
We are only treated to Cortés’s ‘el baile flamenco’ during a few of the pieces, but each time she appears it is inspiring. As a veteran of the art her posture is impeccable, as she holds herself with such strength and poise in extended back bends before snapping into lightning-fast footwork, hitching up her skirts and stamping rhythms so vigorously they pound straight through your chest.
Núñez’s ensemble is completed by a singer whose quality and lung capacity seems unparalleled, as he demonstrates when abandoning the microphone during an intensely emotional, almost spiritual solo ‘cante’ (song). The double bass player curls around his enormous instrument, plucking with erratic precision to elicit the evening’s jazzy undertones. He also serves as our occasional English-speaking MC, translating some of the banter missed by those of who don’t speak the language of passion. The percussionist perches upon his cajón, striking it with prowess and exceptional dexterity, but also sneaks in a few well-timed jokes and even a cheeky on-stage selfie. The only thing that could rival this quintet’s talent is their indisputable love of flamenco and enjoyment of their performance – their joy is contagious.
Although some of the literal language and lyrics of the show will have been missed by the non-Spanish speakers, that rarely matters as the eternal powers of music and dance once again transcend such boundaries to create intuitive and visceral connections. Even though Núñez and co’s captivating performance ran a little longer than scheduled, it felt far too short by my account; the audience had just got into the swing of clicking and clapping along when the applause and ovations began.
Gerardo Núñez played at Sadler’s Wells on 22 February. The Flamenco Festival London continues until 1 March. For more information and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells website.