Rosalía live at Primavera Sound: a triumphant homecoming from one of the world’s greatest pop performers

Primavera Barcelona signs off in style with a Catalan heroine

A thudding noise, the low hum of a car engine, propulsive flashing white screens. The sounds that kickstart this final-night-of-the-weekend headline set from Rosalía give the overall impression of an alarm. Its urgent message: wake up, Primavera, and smell the pop!

To cue, the crowd stand and collectively change into their mesh tops and baguette bags (no, of course they don’t, but where has all this mesh come from? I’d not seen a tiny shoulder bag till this very moment). These people are young, they’re wearing sunglasses (it’s 2am!), and I didn’t see a single one of them at Blur. As Rosalía opens, ritualistically by now, with Motomami opener ‘Saoko’, they render her almost inaudible by their own volume. They sing back to her with such togetherness that I have to assume Barcelona hosts a weekly choir practice in the singer’s honour. Rosalía beams out at them, and asks the sound guys to turn up the PA.

It becomes clear that the alarm noise really wasn’t needed; the crowd don’t need waking up for this. A Catalan native, Rosalía looks overwhelmed to be playing her home turf, but it’s the only fitting stage for one of the biggest shows of her career to date. She fills it instantly, in the same way her cabinets are filled with Latin Grammy Awards and more number one singles in her home country than I can count on two hands. Since rising to international stardom in 2018 with El Mal Querer, she has become one of the most successful Spanish singers of all time, and it’s fitting that she tops the pop-day here and now. Pop-worshippers have been mostly starved thus far, saved by Caroline Polachek and Maggie Rogers, and perhaps even Calvin Harris, who just about avoided being a meme of himself, however much he shouted “Let’s fucking go!”. Just give me a minute to get back from the bar, Calvin!

For seemingly the first time this weekend, people want to dance. And goddammit so do I! But no one wants to dance more than Rosalía, who arrives on the stage in a black catsuit and a football team’s worth of back up dancers. This is choreography as the good lords of pop intended; high energy, effortlessly fun and addictive to watch. She works her way through a few props over the course of her set – a barbershop chair in ‘Diablo’, scooters in ‘Chicken Teriyaki’, but she is at her best when the staging is stripped back and her routines can ooze their slickness. She and her dancers move like silhouettes against the white backdrop, so fearlessly in sync that it has the satisfying quality of looking through a kaleidoscope.

Much of the performance is taken from her recent 2022 world tour, and everything about it feels like another high-production stadium show more than a festival set. While the staging is simple,the camera-work is as choreographed as the dancing, with fish-eye lenses and birds-eye shots that feel like watching a music video, especially when Rosalía knows exactly which angles she needs to hit to lock eye contact. She switches to filming herself on an iPhone for a couple of songs, live cast onto the screens behind her, a change that lends a welcome personal edge to these parts of her performance. For ‘La Noche De Anoche’ she moves down to the crowd barrier, offering her mic to a couple of excitable fans at the barrier, one who knew every intonation, the other so excitable that they simply yelped before shying away. Fair enough!

I would have concluded that Rosalía and her endless stamina weren’t actually human if not for her insatiable need for hydration throughout the show. This is a woman who is drinking her seven glasses a day! At first the stagehand passing her a bottle of water and a face towel is woven into the show’s choreography, but as soon as it could have felt too scripted, she empties a whole bottle into her hair, wanders off-stage with the cameras for another quick glug, and lobs her towel into the crowd.

By the time she closes with ‘CUUUUuuuuuute’, her hair and catsuit sodden with water and sweat, it’s unquestionable that we are watching one of the greatest pop performers in the world. “I can’t see much,” she announces in Spanish early in her set, “but I’ll remember everything.” It’s a sentiment almost certainly shared by the crowd whose real alarms will sound in the morning, who will think in a few days: “Wait – would I have seen better if I’d have taken off my sunglasses?”

Photography by Sharon Lopez