Our Cultural Ambassador Gabriel Moreno flew into town from London recently, combining a family holiday and a solo gig at the ‘Kasbar’, now the spiritual home of poetry evenings, vegan food and an equally intimate setting for both. We have seen him perform there with his ‘Quivering Poets’ on a few previous occasions but this time the challenge for him was to weave the magic on his own-which he did admirably-and to warm acclaim from the roomful of die-hard fans who were bolstered by a mixed bag of younger new fans and some older folk too. His first set started via dedicating the evening and the first song ‘Lena Kalinka’, to an absent friend David Reyes and some of his family who were there. It was as if Gabriel had never left, the venue fits the poet and his songs like a glove.
Unlike previous gigs there, where the band tends to distract you from the lyrics, I found myself listening and better enjoying his words and music. For his second offering he premiered a new song about the Ukraine called ‘Pass me the Bottle.’ There is a new album in the pipeline for which he already has eight new songs. This is to be one of them and it has a chorus which sings to ‘Kiev’ so it presses a lot of buttons which endears you to it from the get go. “For me as a performer I focused on delivering the words and creating dynamics only with my guitar, it was challenging but equally satisfying. For me the night was more poetic because I was on my own with just my words and one instrument alone.”
My curiosity peaked, I interrupted him to ask whether he does many solo gigs …”I’ve done quite a few lately in small venues because it’ easier to get work, and solo work allows audiences to be drawn into the lyrics (the Poetry) and that is doubly satisfying for me as a writer and a performer” A second new song was next introduced, this one had been commissioned, so whether it might get into the new album or not is still up in the air, but its title ‘Marylou and My Cell,’ is a strong indicator that the song is a well observed tongue in cheek put down at our addiction and total dependence on mobile phones.
One observation which I made and put to him was that on this solo concert there were more people joining in with singing-but they knew the words … “Yes and sometimes even better than me, that tells me that I’m getting through and it’s gratifying to see young people and much older people singing the words, not just the choruses. That was an eye opener for me too. Perhaps it has all to do with being local.” I concur with part of that and add that after three albums and his annual visits to our poetry starved rocky shores his music and words have found a home, perhaps fulfilling their mission and etching themselves in the mind of the younger fans especially. I could not believe the singing from an enthusiastic table of six behind me–and they were in tune as well. An evening with our Cultural Ambassador was turning out to be quite special.
Later in the evening when he invited requests there was a shout for ‘Joselin’ an old song about a colourful Spanish minstrel who Gabriel met and befriended in neighbouring La Linea…”I hadn’t sung that one in a while and forgot a line, but they were there to remind me that some songs reach a part of our psyche and embed themselves there, ready to be recalled at any time. For them this was one such. Maybe because I was too relaxed on this occasion that I forgot the line. Who knows, usually when you are fronting a band the adrenaline keeps you on your toes and at the same time you can fall back on them. When you are performing solo there is no plan B there is only you.”
And so the cream of the catalogue of Gabriel’s songs unfolded in front of us and we were all struck by the honesty and conviction that his interpretations conjured up into a heady atmosphere, where in the quieter passages you could have heard a pin drop – always the sign of a good performer – who at the stamp of his foot and a Flamenco-tinged guitar frill would whip up the small but discerning audience into a loud chorus. This was our ‘Taverna Troubadour’ at his best and the noisy acclaim with which the ambassador was rewarded after each song is our Mediterranean and ‘LLanito’ calling card. We are loud and demonstrative. We may not Greeks but if we were, a pile of broken plates would be evidence that we had heartily enjoyed ourselves that hot night in mid August. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and can’t wait for more of the same from the poet. Make it soon Maestro.