María José Llergo: ULTRABELLEZA – Sadler’s Wells, London

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Performer: María José Llergo

A one-night-only performance at the Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival 2024, acclaimed Spanish musician María José Llergo presents her first full album in the intimate environment of the Lillian Baylis Studio only a year after the recording received international acclaim. Even for those unfamiliar with the new artist’s work, this cleverly arranged 75-minute concert, Llergo’s first in London, is a welcoming experience filled with interesting tonal changes, plenty of star power and a sliding vocal range that few veteran singers could match.

Sung entirely in Spanish but with linking sections largely in English – sometimes with charming assistance from the enraptured audience – Llergo’s presence in Sadler’s Wells’ smaller space is substantial, and while many venues struggle to find the right balance between music and audible lyrics, this rendition of ULTRABELLEZA gets it just right. Llergo’s twelve-track album is supported only by keyboards and drums, bringing a European synthesised sound to the various beats and styles presented across the songs, but there is a clarity and purity in Llergo’s voice that cuts through.

ULTRABELLEZA as a concert is full of interesting and unexpected directions, blending recognisable flamenco styles into identifiably contemporary R&B and electric influences that occasionally lean towards those big European summer dance tunes and at other times is more soulful, even contemplative – most notably the first encore Pena, Penita, Pena, accompanied only by piano which receives a significant ovation from the happy crowd.

Other songs include the dramatic Malahe which Llergo jokes is her favourite word and has no direct translation but, she explains, suggests a bad energy or feeling which the song repurposes into a more positive anthem. Llergo’s philosophy, that everyone should believe in themselves and trust their inner “superpower,” is both endearing and strongly suggested in the upbeat music and powerful vocal that the performer uses to seek a connection with everyone in the room, particularly those already in the know about Llergo’s musicianship who delight in performances of Tanto Tiempo, Lo Que Siento and the title track ULTRABELLEZA.

Across this relatively brief performance in fact, Llergo is as energetic in the Lilian Baylis studio as you could imagine she would be in a big arena, her enjoyment of the work and love for the crowd clear. The performer warmly thanks the room after each song which does much to endear newcomers to her work, while her undeniably impressive breath control ensures that Llergo can trill, showcase that vocal range and hold a note for a long time. It adds much to the style of this concert giving it a technical substance that draws the listener into her work.

María José Llergo: ULTRABELLEZA is a fine UK introduction to a performer who already has a substantial international following. While a freesheet or a little more context on the venue website would add additional support for those unable to translate the lyrics, Llergo is an atmospheric vocalist and this one-night-only concert will certainly be the first of many.

Reviewed on 15 June 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Cleverly arranged

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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