Joaquín Cortés is a flamenco celebrity. He was never a purist, never arcane. His broad appeal was based on an accessible mix of flamenco with rock’n’roll showmanship, a splash of glamour and a touch of Chippendale.
In the messianic opening of his new show Mi Soledad (My Solitude) he seems to be JC Superstar, complete with flowing locks and mortified flesh. Near-naked, he lies on a floor striped with lights in the shape of a double cross. Video screens zoom in on his agonised face as he stands up, arms outstretched in resignation or reaching up in supplication. The dancing is ham-fisted, bluntly broadcasting his suffering through doubled-over grief or floor-beating frustration, and accompanied by portentous but featureless chanting.
Again, the generic religiosity is a mask for his inner life, not a window on to it
In the following bulerías, Cortés is a figure of compassion for three female singers in black. He kneels and clasps their skirts or leans against them for support. Again, the generic religiosity is a mask for his inner life, not a window on to it.
The zambra is a music-only number of melancholy accordion tunes and trotting pampas rhythms. The South American feel continues in the following tangos, Cortés returning to the stage in cuffed jeans and cowboy hat, a bow-legged horseman whose feet drum the ground like hooves.
It’s only in the show’s second half that Cortés delivers the flamenco fireworks the audience has been waiting for. Accompanied by only the male musicians, he gives a testosterone-powered display of driving footwork, building one climax after another in close synchrony with the relentlessly pounding music.
In the festive finale the musicians each get to do a centre-stage turn, though the party doesn’t really get warmed up until the fat lady dances. Cortés stays in the background – aptly enough, for this dull show is neither a starry showcase nor a revelation of his persona. But it was welcomed with ecstatic cheers and screams.