Saturday, February 05, 2005

Eduardo Niebla in Concert

Went to see Eduardo Niebla at the Purcell Room with Miseryguts on Friday night.

My initial sense of jamminess about having got front-row tickets for just £15 was soon dissipated by the realisation that we were sitting to the left side right in front of a massive speaker. The performance was to be live in the visual sense if not in the audio and we struggled to catch the contributions of the guitarist over on the right as he clearly wasn't plugged into our speaker.

Niebla sat in the middle of the trio, a middle-aged Spaniard with the diminuitive stature typical of those born before the death of Franco. The other two kept up the haunched posture of humble acolytes throughout the performance, leaving all the facial contortions to the Master. All three wore darks suits with the slept-in look.

In the thick accent of the Andalus Niebla introduced each piece with a brief explanation of its inspiration and a plug for the CD where the track could be found. "This one is named after a street in the Albacin in Granada, about a time when there was little water and everyone had disease", he would say then lead the others off on a jolly, jazzy little tune that sounded much like the one he called Primrose Hill!

The music itself reminded me very much of Acoustic Alchemy; and would probably be best appreciated in a dark underground bar accompanied by a steady consumption of alcohol. We both felt that we got a bit more into it after a pint during the interval!

The compositions were intricate and pleasurable, but my foot didn't seem to want to tap that much and the mood around us in the auditorium never scaled the heights reached during the Radio Tarifa concert last year. All the same Niebla encouraged his audience (Hispano-Guardian) to clap through a couple of the pieces.

I've said before that nearly all Flamenco-inflected culture "walks the kitsch tightrope" but the gypsy element was quite subdued here - the only really kitschy part being Niebla's little intros. In some respects it looked like he aspires to walk the Modernist tightrope instead - one piece in particular ended with him spending almost half a minute trying to extract some virtually sub-audible whines and scratches from his instrument.

Evie joined us for a drink in the RFH bar afterwards, empty at first then flooded by the exiting audience from the concert there. (Yes, definitely exiting rather than exciting - we tried to guess what sort of concert they had just been to see. Definitely not the WOMAD crowd from the other place! )

Evie had just been to a private view of some installation that involved people walking around with speakers attached to the sides of their heads. She looked worried when I proposed that such events might actually be a form of cultural sado-masochism - the sadistic idiosyncrasy of the artist's inspiration matched with the self-flagellation of the private view rent-a-mob that go around willingly offering themselves up as art-victims.

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