“I will go quietly, as I arrived one day”, says “I will go quietly”, a song that José Luis Perales composed for his album Overtime, and in which he imagines his retirement from music. What in 1986 was nothing more than a fantasy, 36 years later has become a harsh reality. The Spanish musician has decided to end live performances, and he’s doing so with a tour, “Ballads for a Farewell,” which took him to Buenos Aires on Thursday night: the first city in the world to endorse him in the singer-songwriter role It happened half a century ago, according to what he said to himself on stage, before emotion betrayed him for the first time within two hours of representation. Such a paradox. The artist who has sensitized millions of Spanish speakers for decades, now lives up there this despair to which he knew how to put words and images.
Before becoming a crooner, Perales always considered himself a composer. And in this he has been consistent in his career. Beyond confirming it once again in his last recital in Buenos Aires, he embodies it since he began to write for others in 1967. Singing was a beautiful accident that gave him life, because it was not is not what suits him best. Though he made adversity his virtue, making lengthened vowels and his shaky baritone his interpretative trademark. To like Julio Iglesias, Nino Bravo, Raphael or Camilo Sesto, among others, that of Cuenca is part of a generation of artists from the European nation who have made song a tool of escape, and even more so in that Francoist Spain in which the affective technicolor could be considered subversive. However, the so-called “Poet of the song” did not hesitate to put himself on the sidewalk in front of the joy carried by the rumba. Both Flemish and Catalan.
“You call me to tell me that you’re leaving, that you can’t take it anymore”, begins the classic “Me llamas”, which Perales invoked almost at the start of his recital. However, the repertoire was inaugurated, after entering the stage behind his orchestra, with “A ballad for a welcome”: theme that marks this tour which includes 70 cities in Spain, Latin America and the United States. “It was time for us to meet,” said the artist first, after 9:00 p.m., before continuing with a finely scripted and segmented show.
Despite its simplicity, the staging, based mainly on a sequence of LED screens, was functional enough to recreate a journey through his cinematographic work. However, while aesthetically it was cyclical, the course of its songs had several jumps at different stages. After performing “Si…”, Perales dusts off a 1974 song close to Spanish folklore: “Cosas de doña Asunción” then revisits “Celos de mi guitarra”. This song earned him the first gold record of his career, and Argentina is the country that gave it to him. Which he decanted into a very moving story of when he came to collect this recognition, so he couldn’t hold back his tears as he remembered it. “When I returned to Spain, I said to my mother: ‘Over there, your son is famous'”, he says in one of the passages of the anecdote, while the public, from different parts of the stadium, showed him affection.
Then came the retribution for this gesture by singing “I would like to say your name”, perhaps the first song of the evening in which the voice of the fans joined that of the castejonense. After doing “El amor”, this kind of meeting between the Italian song of the end of the 50s and the bolero: “Y te vas”, in which the crowd lights up again, harangued by the group’s percussionist, Gino Pavone Pérez ( the recital showman). Then, the singer-songwriter selected some of his classics that were popularized by other artists. This section was created by “La llaman loca”, immortalized by Mocedades, which Perales described as one of the “most wonderful groups that have ever existed”. If this was one of his seminal songwriting successes, his internationalization is due to Jeanette. And he had no trouble recognizing it. Although Carlos Saura used it for his film breeding crows, the singer returned to “Why are you leaving?” in a reference to the Hispanic pop of the seventies.
What this student of Charles Aznavour surely doesn’t know is that his anthem had an impact even on Argentinian punk, thanks to Attaque 77, which included his cover on one of his best albums: fallen angels. And what the members of today’s trio surely don’t know is that Perales traced this theme, like all those he writes, only with his guitar and his voice. It was one of his many confessions of the night, and he even showed signs of it. He did it with “What Happens Tomorrow?” (he hadn’t played it since 1984) and “Frente al mirror”, one of the songs he composed for Raphaël. Although in this case, she thought she would be rejected. To close the acoustic conjuncture, he called on his guitarist Borja Fernández to recreate “Hoy me acordé de ti” together, in the conclusion of which he dropped: “You are wonderful”. Taking advantage of this confessional corridor, the musician also revealed that he had come to compose with four hands, as happened with Miguel Bosé in the country song “Creo en ti”.
“Lost melody” appeared in the home stretch of the show, followed by “Amada mía”. If in “Elle et lui” he rocked her, “Chanson d’automne” was a pop idyll. At the same time, “Gente Marvelous” and “Que Cantan los Ninos” worked as a legacy for young people. Finally, he spoke of his withdrawal from the stage before “Ballade pour un farewell”, to which the public responded with a “He’s not leaving, Perales is not leaving”. Something to excite the artist again. After stepping down from the stage, one of Spain’s last ballad icons returned with a trio of classics. First he sang “A sailboat called Libertad”, which lifted the audience from their seats, followed by “And how is he?” and closed with “I love you”. There, José Luis Perales returned to his origins, taking up the guitar again and performing “Me iré calmement” as a solo. It was a noble act of artistic self-immolation, and that’s how the public understood it, adding to their pain. And they mourned him until he merged with the landscape that emanated from the screens, where, after reading his surname, he was lost in silence.