photo by Benjamin Thacker
Gusman Theater, Miami
July 9, 2009
Better Than: My little brother's high school graduation (the last event I attended at the Gusman)
The Review: Afro-Spanish flamenco fusion queen Concha Buika truly shook the dust off of downtown's historic Gusman Center last Thursday night. Her passionate performance had the full house laughing, crying, and leaping to its feet in standing ovation. The sultry singer, backed by genius Cuban pianist Ivan "Melon" Lewis, inspired a total of four these throughout the night, leaving the crowd begging for more.
Opening with the title track off her recent Latin Grammy=nominated album Nina de Fuego, the duo soared through a repertoire of love and relationship-themed flamenco-style hits. They highlighted Buika's powerful, albeit raspy vocal range, while also featuring incredible asides by her astute accompanist. Though her style, for the most part, is distinctly gypsy-influenced, Buika's intermittent jazz scatting, along with air-guitar gestures, revealed a more diverse musical ability.
Speaking of diversity, piano man Lewis, in my opinion, stole the show with his flawless finger work. He comfortably slipped in and out of styles as far-reaching as that of the Buena Vista Social Club's Ruben Gonzalez, to the more avant garde jazz phrasing of Keith Jarrett, without missing a beat. And Buika was clearly impressed as well, evidenced by her onstage camera antics, shooting candids of a blushing Lewis during piano solos.
The atmosphere on stage was relaxed and fun, despite the sentimental mood of most of the songs. Buika, in her sexy side-slit yellow dress, standing barefoot on her circular red carpet, kept the crowd roaring with laughter between songs. Though she spoke only in Spanish, sometimes losing the gringo demographic with her rapid speech and strong dialect, she kept everyone captivated with her huge smile and unquestionable musical passion.
Personal Bias: Yellow is my favorite color.
Random Detail: The singer had to cancel a sold-out show at the same venue last year because of visa issues.
By the Way: Buika shoots with a Pentax camera.