Concert Review: Rosalía


Zara Irshad, Senior Staff Writer

Is it possible to feel like a deer in headlights amidst a crowd of 4,600? Rosalía’s bold entrance to her sold out show at the CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theatre seemed to have that effect. When the stadium lights began to dim at precisely 9:05 p.m., the stage filled with sporadic strobe lights designed to mimic headlights. Deep, growling engine noises echoed through the audience.

The audience was entranced, literal deer in headlights as their eyes darted from left to right. Dancers began to move onto the stage in a rectangular formation as the revved engine noises began to multiply, torsos bent over and arms dangling to the floor as they assumed form as a human car. The lights began to pulse, and the engine sounds started to blur with the electric instrumentals of Rosalía’s hit single “Saoko” as Rosalía emerged from the middle of the human car. The crowd began to scream.

Sunday’s show marked Rosalía’s debut performance in San Diego. She played a full two-hour show with no opening act and very few breaks, a testament to the years she devoted to perfecting her craft. A graduate of the prestigious Catalonia College of Music in Barcelona, Rosalía spent eight years studying flamenco and music production while training under decorated musicians.

Despite facing criticism over her heavy use of flamenco influences, her most recent project “Motomami” earned an 8.4 Pitchfork rating and garnered the attention of Cardi B and Tyler the Creator. The album, while still rooted in flamenco, melds influences of reggaeton, pop, and hip-hop, and features artists such as the Weeknd and Pharell Williams. 

Rosalía played the entirety of “Motomami” during her 31-song set, in addition to fan favorites like “Malamente” and “Con Altura” that helped launch her to global fame right before the pandemic, and a selection of covers including “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd.

Her audience was a sea of leather pants, sheer blouses, and platform boots, the heart of the edgy yet feminine aesthetic that arose from the album. Some sang along to every word with her while others stood in awe, mouths gaping open. Regardless of if you could speak Spanish fluently or could only pick up a few words, the passion and emotion dripping from her voice were evident.

There was absolutely nothing static about the show. From the contemporary choreography to Rosalías own dancing and facial expressions, it was hard to look away from the stage. Even the camera work broke from traditional molds, with a cameraman following Rosalía around onstage and broadcasting that footage to large screens at the sides of the stage. At one point, Rosalía grabbed the camera and sang into it before passing it around to the dancers.

The set was a white screen for a majority of the show and, aside from Rosalía and a handful of dancers, there was nothing else on the main stage. Such simplicity allowed the audience to focus on the raw vocal talent at hand as she flickered effortlessly between high energy tracks and soulful power ballads that brought tears to her eyes.

Her moments of solitude on stage had a similar impact. From her performance of the self-reflective “DIABLO,” during which she cut the braids out of her hair and wiped off her makeup, to her performances of “Dolerme” and “HENTAI” during which she was alone on stage with her instrument, these moments were thoughtfully chosen.

For such a long set, the show was surprisingly engaging. Rosalía brought groups of fans onstage to dance with her during the upbeat tracks “Yo x ti, tú x mí” and “DESPECHÁ,” and even ran into the audience during “LA NOCHE DE ANOCHE,” holding her mic up for lucky audience members to sing the verses with her.  

During the middle of the show, fans started throwing piles of Dr. Simi stuffed toys on the stage, sending Rosalía on a wild goose chase around the stage trying to scoop them all up. It has become a trend in Mexico for fans to throw Dr. Simi, the mascot of a popular drugstore chain in Mexico, toys to singers at concerts. Seeing as San Diego is so close to the border, it seems to have caught on. 

Despite being hit square in the face by a bouquet of flowers that a fan flung onto the stage at the end of “Con Altura,” she still rode back out on a scooter for a three song encore that ended with “Motomami” track “CUUUUuuuuuute.” A solid representation of the cathartic soundscape of the album, the song slams back and forth between chaos and calm, old and new, rigid and soft, much like the nature of her artistry.

Image courtesy of Livesticket