Rosalía, la joven Catalan singer who has been credited with, among other things, revolutionising flamenco for younger audiences, has played in New York City two times before. One performance was at Joe’s Pub (capacity 184) as part of Flamenco Festival NY. Then in the basement of the Public Hotel (capacity 400), before she’d reached global superstar status. So when the 25-year-old Spanish pop firebrand returned to perform for night two of Red Bull Music Festival at Webster Hall – the recently reopened East Village venue (capacity 1500) – on Tuesday, it was almost as if her voice was too big for the space. This girl needs an arena.
The two video screens flanking the stage tremble to the beats of her opener, PIENSO EN TU MIRÁ. As she undulates in a fire engine red PVC two-piece, a troupe of six dancers dressed all in white surround her like a moving rendition of a lotus flower. That sounds cheesy, perhaps, but the idea of this nascent star coming into bloom isn’t lost on the diverse crowd in attendance. From there, she moves through many of her runaway hits – her James Blake collab Barefoot in the Park, QUE NO SALGA LA LUNA and J Balvin team-up Brillo – stopping at points to let her four backup singers shine, possibly for a breather after a marathon of vocal gymnastics.
In between her bigger, pulsier tracks, Rosalía appears on stage solo to sing a cappella. Perhaps it’s trite to point out that the sound she projects belies a frame that can’t be above 5 foot 5. But it’s surprising to witness the sheer power. When her most recent single Con Altura hits, she takes it in turns to let the audience repeat the lyrics – not that they need permission to immodestly holler the words back at her. Though no tears are shed, near the show’s end Rosalía profusely thanks the audience, visibly overwhelmed at the response to what has felt like her true American arrival. She’s an import we’d like to keep around for much longer, and next time, most certainly, at a much larger venue.