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Andrés Calamaro in Madrid: just a few songs, what a joy | Culture

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“Songs of real pain, but songs no more. / Songs split in half, but songs no more.” These beautiful verses emerged from the throat of Andrés Calamaro. It was the fifth song of the recital, entitled It’s nine o’clock, and we had already realized that the night was about songs, only songs. This time there was no nonsense. No comments for or against politicians, no jokes about controversial current issues. This time the Argentine did not offer material for the haterism of social networks. Today, you can only see videos on the digital world of a good show performed by a sensational rock band led by a restrained Calamaro, focused on offering a night of only compositions, one of those that make up one of the best repertoires of rock in Spanish.

It happened at the Madrid Rio Babel festival, a musical event that is already well established in the summer calendar and which is celebrating its eighth edition, this time at the Caja Mágica. 16,000 people, many of them Argentinians wearing Maradona shirts (more than Messi’s), saw a Calamaro without cracks, serious, concentrated, far from the eccentric and slanderous character of other nights. He gave a concert of an hour and a quarter without pause, saying “thank you, Madrid” here and there and little else. And he focused on the interpretation, sometimes strumming the guitar (with a sticker of an Osborne bull) and other times pressing the keys of his organ. And expanding a voice in sensational form that reached its peak in the interpretation of Perfect crimes, the penultimate of the lot, with that tone that cracks towards the end of the stanzas, because “she is not going to come back and the pain begins to grow inside me” and “the coin fell on the side of loneliness, and pain.” The Argentinean truly felt it.

The tour is called Agenda 1999 and celebrates the 25 years of that egomaniacal creative display that was Brutal Honesty, a 37-song album where the musician mourned the end of a relationship and welcomed his return to the big life, as Alcalá Norte would say. Several pieces from that work were played, which in 1999 was an anomaly (it was triple), but in these times of fleetingness I can’t even imagine. But do yourself a favor and invest two hours and 20 minutes in listening to the album. Just like that, in one go. Because there’s hardly a note left over.

Julian Kanevsky and Andrés Calamaro in The Magic Box.Ricardo Rubio (Europa Press)

If Calamaro’s band has always had a rock and virile component, with the addition of guitarist Brian Figueroa it has only increased this. Figueroa has a Randy Rhoads-like appearance, but with a dark complexion, and he has a funky and sharp style that adds a lot to the ensemble. Words of praise are always in order for Julian Kanevsky’s guitar display, virtuoso to say the least. And a general applause to the whole band for their work on the chorus: thanks to those blended voices, the Argentine’s songs flew higher.

Calamaro liked brave and non-populist themes, such as The wounds o When you’re not there. He made hardly any concessions. Yes, he touched Skinny y I love you just the samebut even in this last one he changed some tone, although he did not dare to deconstruct it completely, as his beloved Bob Dylan usually does. Not a note from the repertoire of Los Rodríguez, a symptom that Andrés is in another. He merged Not so Buenos Aires y Clonazapan and circusthat story is the Dylanesque (again) of an inspiring and paranoid country like Argentina. Listening to them last night, one can only regret not having been born there to feel every word of the songs. The concert ended with a bit of noise, Boys. At the end, with the musicians already greeting each other, a not-so-casual bullfighting pasodoble came over the speakers and Calamaro took off his blue shirt and started to perform natural passes. Well, nothing more.

Before Calamaro, Juanes performed. Dressed in dark clothes, with long hair flying in the wind, his muscular arms covered in tattoos. Despite his appearance as the leader of a heavy metal band, he continues to rock Latin pop from the early 2000s. (The black shirt, I ask God and those, all of them sounded yesterday). And the Colombian has remained there for a while. He masters that genre wonderfully and he stood out in some phases as the lead guitarist, especially in a phenomenal solo in It makes me fall in love.

Juanes, another of the stars of the first day of the Río Babel festival.
Juanes, another of the stars of the first day of the Río Babel festival. Ricardo Rubio (Europa Press)

Calamaro and Juanes were the stars of the first day of Río Babel. There are two left: today, Friday, with Amaral, La Pegatina or La Oreja de Van Gogh; and on Saturday, the day with the most international presence, with Two Door Cinema Club, Die Antwoord or the Argentine Babasónicos. The philosophy of Río Babel is to bet on the mix of styles (rock, pop, hip hop, electronic…), giving special importance to music in Spanish.

It’s a festival that doesn’t overwhelm, with just two music stages (and one for comedy) where the acts alternate, so there are no annoying overlaps. About eight acts on each of the three days; it starts at 4pm and ends at 1am. All very reasonable. The venue was the same one where Green Day played a month ago. Last night there was a great atmosphere, but it was comfortable. Look at the difference: yesterday’s 16,000 people versus Green Day’s 35,000.

Andrés Calamaro continues his tour in Spain until September 29. See dates by clicking here.

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