Having experienced Gotan Project live before, it was with a real sense of anticipation that we hot-footed it from Clapham Common to Shepherds Bush for a dose of their brushed-up tango. Mind you, I must admit I haven’t got fully into their new album Lunatico properly yet. Maybe, like the last album La Revancha del Tango, I’ll have to give it more time before I realise its greatness. But this gig certainly helped the cause. The set was mostly drawn from their latest and it all sounded amazing. From their vantage point high above the brilliant tango musicians, Philippe Cohen Solal and Christoph Müller chucked out some chunky beats, electronic trickery and ace rhythms that made me glad we got there late and couldn’t find a seat. The vantage point in the standing section of the Empire was perfect for both seeing the spectacle on stage and dancing a wee bit.
Not that everyone seemed into it. During the quieter, jazzier Celos, the buzz of conversation made me wonder why all these people paid good money just to ignore the band. Then I realised. The (perhaps over-) use of tracks from La Revancha on TV trailers and ads seems to have introduced Gotan Project to the dinner party set, who obviously can’t get used to the idea of having their music on without talking about mortgages or little Johnnie’s school.
Their loss. It was a great show. I’m not always one to consider virtuoso musicianship as the most important thing in live performances, but it’s so right here. The tango musicians that guitarist Eduardo Makaroff (the third core Gotan member) has assembled were fantastic. And didn’t they look good all dressed up in their white tuxedos and dresses? They’ve obviously put a lot of effort into the lighting and projections too. All of which wouldn’t matter too much if the music was crap, but that was never going to be a problem. It all contributes to a fabulous whole.
Good as the new album sounds live, the biggest cheers are saved for the favourites off La Revencha, particularly the stunning encore of Queremos Paz and Santa Maria. And don’t they deserve them! Just when I’m wishing they could play all night, it’s all over, mystifyingly early at 10:15pm. Oh well, some of the audience might even be able to squeeze in a dinner party before the evening’s out.