Rosalía's Brixton Academy Show Is A Courageous Statement

Rosalía's Brixton Academy Show Is A Courageous Statement

She's punching through the glass ceiling...

We keep being told that Rosalía is one of pop’s most promising stars; look no further than the Spanish singer scooping the Rising Star Award at the recent Billboard Women In Music ceremony.

And while it’s undoubtedly deserved, what is witnessed in Brixton is not the achievement of an artist simply climbing the ranks. Fiercely unique and blisteringly confident, bolstered by an arsenal of infectious tunes that chop flamenco flourishes with more traditional pop elements, she delivers a live show worthy of the most prestigious of stages.

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The night begins with the high drama of Antonio Moreno ‘Polito’, a revered flamenco dancer from Sevilla. Backed by a drummer, two meandering guitarists and a cajón that he occasionally thumps and ascends, Polito begins most songs bathed in a single spotlight, before his stomps become more urgent, his claps more spectacular, and the intensity builds to fever pitch.

By the time he performs a final routine, the crowd are clinging onto every intricate step. Impossible not to watch in amazement, this unrelenting high drama proves the perfect accompaniment to Rosalía’s equally theatrical performance.

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When she does take to the stage, flanked by a small band and contorting backing dancers, the wall of noise is unlike anything I’ve heard in the venue before. The crowd know every single word, Spanish speakers or not, and they swarm open-mouthed to get a little closer to their idol.

I quickly realise how badly I've underestimated the level of devotion that Rosalía evokes in her followers and I can do little more than grin widely for the rest of the show. It’s pointless to attribute their frenzied levels of worship to simply one factor. But what is immediately apparent from the outset is the sheer dexterity of her voice and an ability to convey emotion in a truly astonishing manner, even when executing high-octane dance routines with razor sharp choreography that crackles with every exhaustive step.

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It all seems so effortless or duende, as is often used to describe Rosalía, a quality of passion and inspiration. For when she lets fly, the crowd melt away and she’s singing only to you in a demonstration of alarming intimacy.

From the searing opera of ‘MALDICIÒN’ to the undeniable catchiness of recent singles ‘Con Altura’ and ‘A Palé’, the set list mimics her vocals; a breathtaking contrast between strength and vulnerability that seems to resonate with all in the room. Perhaps in contrast to some of her pop contemporaries, she carries a real air of sincerity too.

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A lengthy monologue on her deep love for flamenco and mentor El Chiqui is genuine and heartfelt, while smaller gestures like gifting her tiny sunglasses to a lucky onlooker and appeasing eager fans crowding the stage door after the show do not go unnoticed.

It’s a performance that inspires fans to start singalongs on the tube home and replicate the purring of her name that now stands as her calling card. And you can guarantee they’ll be doing it when Rosalía returns to London once again, except this time they’ll be making their way home from a far bigger venue.

Rising star no more.

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Words: Lee Wakefield
Photography: Chloe Newman

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