Live Report: Rosalía - Somerset House Summer Series, London
By 7pm there’s a throng of people on the Strand, huddled beneath the columns of Somerset House’s north gate. But it’s not the usual trudge of homeward-bound commuters, nor the smattering of touts with their elongated calls for “any spaaaare tiggets.” Instead, it’s pockets of young bilingual fans desperately waving handwritten and laser printed signs requesting ‘one, two, any spares – gracias.’
Two hours and two minutes later, those lucky enough to secure a ticket in advance have begun a burgeoning Mexican wave in anticipation of Rosalía Vila Tobella taking the stage.
There are few superlatives left unspent when it comes to the 25-year-old Rosalía, whose modern, hip hop-infused take on flamenco music has captivated a global, increasingly rapturous fanbase since the arrival of last year’s 'El Mal Querer'.
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Equal parts camp and effortless cool, she arrives onstage flanked by a sextet of white-clad ‘niñas’ – greeted by a ripple of rolled Rs, ‘arribas’ and adoring cries of ‘olé’ from the crowd.
More than a few comparisons to Beyoncé are audible among the hushed audience during her opening salvo, but this feels like a superficial (or at least easy) comparison. At once fluid and staccato, Rosalia and her dancers’ tightly choreographed undulations are mesmerising in their embodiment of the oposición – or asymmetry – of flamenco. It’s stagecraft to match the stunning visual essence of her music videos.
And as her voice soars and cracks in arranque, she exhibits an extraordinary ability to shift between vocal measures too: growling full force into the microphone in one moment, then soothing her devotees with an exhale of the same breath.
It’s truly captivating stuff. An attempt to hush the crowd fails, until she stuns them into silence by singing.
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Gathered in the historic surrounds of Somerset House, this audience is under no illusion that they’re watching a star blossom. And they’re here to play their part in it: ‘Di Mi Nombre’ is performed as a duet between the Catalan onstage and those with arms aloft before her. Her take on Manuel Vallejo’s canonical ‘Catalina’ is urged on with emoting howls. ‘Malamente’ is huge and rings out across the Thames, ad libs and all; while recent, more distinctly chart-ready material such as the noughties R&B of ‘Aute Cuture’ and J Balvin collab ‘Con Altura’, are lapped up by a crowd equally eager to wind its hips.
When the audience’s cries of ‘Otra! Otra!’ are sated by an encore appearance, she glides through a rendition of ‘Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero’ before being goaded into an impromptu performance of twin single ‘Milionària’. She sings it acappella, accompanied only by the crowd’s claps and clicks and bellows of “Fucking money man!” for the chorus.
At one point, she recounts a memory of coming to London as a teenager to learn English. “That didn’t go so well,” she laughs. Tonight, her visit to the city has gone more than well. It’s gone absolutely flawlessly.
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Words: Will Pritchard (@wf_pritchard)