Halfway through her show at WiZink Center in Madrid Wednesday night (Dec. 11), the last stop of her El Mal Querer tour, Rosalía paused for a moment mid-stage and asked: “What do you guys think if I sing a capella?”
The screams were as deafening as the utter silence that followed as the Catalan singer launched into a breathtaking a capella version of “Catalina,” a complex, otherwordly song from her first album, Los Angeles.
It’s not easy to get 16,000 people to practically stop breathing for three minutes. But then again, the lone figure onstage –clad in a white leotard with flowing sleeves and a blood-red sash around her waist—had managed to sell out this arena in a mere 24 minutes (as I’m told by one of the guards at the venue). These fans were committed. And so was she.
In the past 18 months, much has been said and written about Rosalía’s musical and visual prowess as her cult-like status has mushroomed (on Wednesday, those in attendance included film director Pedro Almodovar and actress Rossy de Palma). Is she all that, some wonder?
On a big stage, Rosalía was all that, and then some. Flanked by her precise battalion of six dancers, all dressed in white, her show was a master class on how to marry high art with commercial appeal.
From the opening “Pienso en tu mirá,” singing over loops and hand-clapping with a giant video screen as a backdrop, Rosalía took control of the stage, singing and dancing with exact precision yet conveying utter abandon.
Accompanied only by two back-up singers, two palmeros and her producer/DJ and musical co-conspirator El Guincho, Rosalía’s show was relatively sparse, with no outfit changes and the special effects reserved only for the giant video screen in the center. The side screens were reserved mostly for Rosalía herself, looking alternately like a vision and an angel, her long black hair serving almost as a prop to a repertoire that was surprisingly elastic.
“Millonaria” came accompanied by a video of Euro bills bearing Rosalía’s likeness, while “A ningún hombre,” played as an encore, sounding like a futuristic Gregorian chant; “Con altura” acquired an almost tribal quality with pulsing percussion and staccato dancing.
The surprise of the evening was Ozuna, who took the stage to sing “Yo x ti, tu x mi,” to the venue-shaking roar of the crowd, with the woman he later called “part of my family.”
“ El mal querer has been the most exciting thing to ever happen to me,” Rosalía said toward the end of her 90-minute set, prior to ending with her breakout hit “Malamente.” “I don’t know when I’ll sing again in a place like this.”
Real soon, we hope.