A singer in search of the right song


If only she’d sung “Vámonos”, I told my companion after another frustrating show by Concha Buika. I fell in love with her voice the first time I heard her in a showcase in Lisbon a decade ago. She was one of Mariza’s guests that night, and promptly upstaged her. Since then, though, it’s been an erratic journey:

You go along to her concerts with your fingers crossed, hoping that the singer you see on stage will be the same enchantress that you know from the albums. Not for the first time, Concha Buika decided not to play along. There was certainly energy a-plenty in a set that lasted almost two hours, but much of it was frittered away in histrionics. While some of the Afro-Spanish star’s fans gave her a standing ovation, neutrals were left grasping at fragments. There isn’t a voice quite like hers, wild, impassioned and as idiosyncratic as Nina Simone’s. And like the American diva, Buika sometimes seems to exist on another plane. While that beautiful gap-toothed smile seldom left her face all evening, her longest speech to the audience was a rant about air hostesses who have been making her life difficult because she does not fit the business class stereotype.

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: www.facebook.com/clive.davis.10 Instagram: clivephotos
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