Helado Negro at Motel Mozaique 2019
Helado Negro at Motel Mozaique 2019

Helado Negro wins the hearts of Utrecht

Helado Negro is a smooth operator. Over the course of nine albums, he’s created a strong back catalogue of music which washes over you like a cool breeze. The aural equivalent of a massage. His songs draw from a diverse musical landscape, weaving together elements of indie pop, electronic, and Latin influences into a captivating sonic tapestry. His delicate voice matches his effortlessly cool music perfectly with his latest album PHASOR showing that even within this distinctive style, he’s still got some surprises up his sleeve.

Helado Negro at Motel Mozaique 2019

From the moment he took the stage, it was clear from the response that this sold out audience were excited for what was ahead of them. The setlist drew mostly from Helado’s latest album PHASOR, which was I was more than happy about since I’d argue it’s his strongest yet. Kicking off with the dreamy Colores Del Mar the gentle introduction warmed us up to the pulsating groove of LFO (Lupe Finds Oliveros) and the intimate I Just Want to Wake Up With You.

After this he took a detour to his 2021 album Far In, prewarning the audience what was to come before playing Gemini and Leo, There Must Be A Song Like You and Hometown Dream. reminding you of quite how much of a consistently strong back catalogue Helado has. The familiarity with these songs was enough to get a number of audience members singing along.

With just three musicians on stage, Helado depends more on backing tracks as opposed to recreating each and every sound musically and the show was better for it. His albums are a tapestry of instrumentation, whose rhythms are pivotal to them all. When faced with a decision between a Kraftwerk-style static and technical display of reproduction, or Helado grooving around the stage with his shimmering silver-streaked afro flowing through the stage lights and dry ice, I’ll take an active Helado any day of the week.

There were a number of highlights to choose from, but Wish You Could Be Here in particular sounded massive live. Its electronic rhythms, and synth-heavy hooks gave it an energy incomparable to the recording which made it feel like this was how it was meant to be heard. It served as an encapsulation of why the more rhythmic nature of PHASOR will probably be a live favourite for years to come.

After a relatively short set considering the size of Helado’s back catalogue, and the fact that he’d only played songs from the latest two of his nine albums, it was inevitable that an encore was on the cards. With mere seconds spent going through the backstage door for the encore ritual, Helado returned to the stage to abundant cheers.

As the band settled back down, Helado announced he’d be playing some tracks from his breakthrough 2019 album This Is How You Smile, which was met by a sizeable cheer from the audience. Delicate songs like Sabana de luz got the crowd enthusiastically slow dancing while the slow build of País Nublado built things up with its ethereal melodies.

The highlight of the night came during Running, which was clearly the one the crowd had been waiting for. Helado invited the audience to join him in singing the chorus, which the crowd was probably going to do anyway, but joined in with gusto after the request. Voices harmonized in unison, a sense of unity and connection filled the room, with Helado extending the final chorus with requests like “quiet one this time” which were all met with enthusiastic obedience.

Throughout the performance, Helado Negro’s stage presence was magnetic, effortlessly engaging the crowd with his soulful vocals and intricate instrumentation. From the introspective Hometown Dream to the euphoric Es Una Fantasia each song was delivered with passion and precision, leaving a lasting impression.

Helado Negro’s concert at Ekko was a transcendent experience, showcasing the artist’s boundless creativity and musical prowess. All songs with the exception of the final one We Don’t Have Time For That were drawn from his last three albums, a reflection of the hot streak Helado is on right now. There was a real wholesomeness to this gig that perfectly matches what makes Helado Negro so appealing. The result made this show a night to remember.