What a pleasure to catch up again with Argentinean tango ambassador and singer extraordinaire Martín Alvarado, now on his 21st European tour, and his Asi Es Mi Tango programme, this time at the wonderful The Forge in Camden Town, London. What a pleasure also, that his frequent accompanist Mikko Helenius, not encountered before, should feature on bandoneón and piano.
Alvarado is always a guarantee for a very special evening, and so it was again with Martín Alvarado - 'Asi Es Mi Tango' with Mikko Helenius At The Forge last night. Although the turn-out sadly was far short of the thousand-plus audiences Alvarado attracts elsewhere, he remained completely unfazed and it might as well have been a packed out house. Twenty or a thousand, the seasoned pro that he is, Alvarado takes it all in his stride and makes any crowd equally welcome with his usual warmth and charm.
Over the course of two full sets, Alvarado's huge stage presence and charisma shone as much as his outstanding tenor voice and huge interpretative talents.
We were treated to an exquisite selection of classic tangos, valses and modern songs, accompanied sometimes by Alvarado's guitar, mostly by Helenius' excellent bandoneón and piano. Sometimes, both of the latter simultaneously! Helenius has mastered the rare art of playing the bandoneón with his right hand while playing left-handed piano. A remarkable feat indeed. Further demonstrations of Helenius' outstanding talents came in the form of a piano solo and a piano-bandoneón solo, both of which took the breath away.
The prodigious vocal gifts of Alvarado should hardly need mentioning. All the same, they never fail to impress, and his often heart-rending renditions of what are frequently songs of great sadness get the message right across the language barrier and straight into the heart.
The always beautifully intimate The Forge somehow seemed even more intimate than usual, as if transformed by the passionate voice and presence of Alvarado. This might have been someone's living room, with the singer addressing everyone present personally.
However, it would be misleading to give the impression that passion and sadness alone pervaded the atmosphere. This was far from the case. Alvarado and Helenius provided a good deal of well judged light relief also in the form of some fine musical comedy. This was considerably enhanced also by the Finnish Helenius' absolutely dead-pan poker face - I would not play poker with this man for anything! Never!
Martín Alvarado is taking tango to a whole new dimension, while showing the greatest respect and love for the tradition. A combination that works, and indeed works well.
All in all then, Martín Alvarado - 'Asi Es Mi Tango' with Mikko Helenius At The Forge was an experience that really should not have been missed. The UK is very fortunate indeed that Alvarado included it in his present tour. I am only sad that I have to miss out on his second London performance tonight at Negracha Tango Club! The UK leg of Alvarado's tour continues until March 11th, so make sure you catch him somewhere!
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