Artist: Tomatito y grupo
Location: Berlin, Germany
Date: 28 October 2017
Tomatito, the renowned flamenco guitarist from Andalusia, may have spent two decades accompanying singer Camarón de la Isla, but he now fronts his own group. He was joined by his son, José del Tomate, a proficient guitarist in his own right; his daughter, vocalist Mari Ángeles; vocalist Kiki Cortiñas; percussionist El Piraña; and percussionist/dancer El Torombo. Most (but not all) of their songs featured vocals, but the star of the show was usually Tomatito's guitar. His technique ranged from lamentful, minor-key arpeggios to whirlwind runs that were faster than the mind could follow.
The only other tonal instrumentation came from José del Tomate. While he mostly played rhythm parts underneath Tomatito's firestorm, he took a couple solos that were just as impressive as his father's. The vocals from Mari Ángeles and Kiki Cortiñas were similarly dramatic. They typically sung in harmony, and while they clearly had expressive voices, I found their style to be less compelling than the instrumental performers.
The percussionists were both a special treat. El Piraña initially played in a rather restrained style, but he gradually picked up energy as the night went on. His drumset consisted of a snare, a conga, several cymbals, and a cajón, all of which he struck only with his hands. He took one solo near the end that became a wild and fantastic fury of rhythm.
The real surprise came from El Torombo. I was initially amused that he appeared to be solely a professional handclapper. All of the performers contributed hand percussion in some form of another, but the one microphone near El Torombo was pointed at his hands from underneath, and he neither played an instrument nor sang. However, shortly before the end of the show, he got up in the middle of a song and slowly but carefully walked to the center of the stage. In a sudden flash, he swung himself around and began dancing in an elaborate manner with rhythmically complex footwork. He continued this role for the next song as well. It was an astonishing act in itself, but the music matched the rhythm of his dance with an incredible precision, even when the tempo increased to a frenzied peak.
Tomatito and his group put on a captivating show. His guitar playing was fascinating on its own, but combined with a talented group of complementary musicians, it was a continual pleasure. Some of the slower songs that focused more on the vocalists dragged slightly, but the instrumental showpieces were a delight on every occasion. I appreciated that each member contributed something vital to the show. The combination of incredible guitarwork, well-crafted rhythm, and the bonus dancing made this a quite memorable performance.
P.S. Thanks to Alyssa!
[The Konzerthaus interior.]