Concha Buika Theatre Maisonneuve, Montreal QC, June 29
Published Jun 30, 2014"I don't use filters when I'm in front of you" declared Spanish singer Concha Buika to the audience, before joking that her mother comes to her concerts to find out what's really going on in her daughter's life. This show certainly felt unfiltered, from the raw intensity of her voice to her often puzzling stage manner. Buika is one of the most amazing voices in music these days; her rich yet gruff voice lies somewhere between Tina Turner, Cesaria Evora, Nina Simone and Janis Joplin. However, vocal talent is just the beginning of where she's coming rom on stage.
As her band — acoustic guitar, percussion dominated by the Peruvian cajon and a six-string bass (a surprise because she'd been known for playing in a piano trio format for years) — started playing, she walked out looking glamorous but also a little wild. Clearly her rider had stipulated some kind of cocktail on a small table behind her. She picked up the drink, surveyed the scene and poured a little out on stage (the drink would become quite the effective prop as the concert wore on; Buika even knows how to drink with stage presence). Then she poured out a little more. Then a third dose — was she anointing the stage? At that point she surveyed her band mates with an intense diva stare and launched into a riveting take on "La Niebla." The 1500 patrons were instantly swept up in her focus.
Her commitment to songs is incredible, with "Santa Lucia" from her most recent record, La Noche Más Larga, being an early highlight as blues, Portuguese fado and even a few runs that would have sounded at home in Mali beguiled everyone. After finishing the song, she approached the mic and said "there's so much things going on in my head right now" and stroked her temples as if massaging a headache (or struggling with demons threatening to burst forth from her skull). Then she poured some more liquor out.
Her stage manner was a little unnerving but ultimately humanizing — no filters madefor some discomfiting moments. This was apparent in her vocal improvisations, which sometimes got quite strange as she moved into Iva Bittova-style yips and grunts at times. It's clear that we were dealing with a complex artist very much worth paying attention to in years to come.