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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Return of a flamenco master
Paco de Lucia
Paco de Lucia demonstrates the power of flamenco
By BBC News Online's Alex Webb

Guitarist Paco de Lucia, 53, is the man who liberated flamenco music from its past and opened up an intensively conservative musical form to the possibilities of jazz and the influences of latin music.

But all revolutionaries tend to become conservatives, and the Paco de Lucia show which came to London is one that has toured for some years.

Nonetheless, the Royal Festival Hall was packed and the crowd expectant.

De Lucia strode on the stage alone, to an ovation, and said his only words of the evening: "I thought London would be fresher - this heat is just like Spain."

He projected a tremendous seriousness, verging on an inwardness, which made the audience feel like eavesdroppers.

Extraordinary

His first number, a guitar solo, seemed to grow organically out of a prolonged bout of tuning.

The circular arrangement of his group reinforced the impression that they were really playing for each other.

The eight piece group included other guitarists, percussionists, a flautist and the remarkable vocalist Rafael de Utrera. There was also the dancer Joaquin Grilo.

It was Grilo who did most to communicate, leaping up from his 'cajon' (a box played like a drum) to dance towards the end of the first set.

Grilo's dancing was extraordinary, a strutting fusion of tap and flamenco which drew gasps of admiration from the audience.

Power

The second set was more intense, de Lucia demonstrating the guitar's potential as a percussion instrument as he scratched and tapped ferociously between his blistering single-note runs.

Rafael de Utrera made his mark with his haunting vocals, calling across the music like a muezzin.

De Lucia played one of his 70s classics, Entre Dos Aguas and a single encore, and left the Festival Hall on its feet.

It had been a cool demonstration of brilliance - not one perhaps to make new converts to flamenco, but a reminder to the initiated of the undiluted power of the form in the hands of a master.

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