Having spent the day in Reading listening to some of the best live music in the world at this year's Womad festival, it was hard to return to smelly old London to report on a band who are more known for their carefully structured studio confections than any ability to cut it live. Especially as Lunatico, the long awaited sequel to their 2001 album Revancha del Tango, is something of a disappointment.
That first album, with its dubby reframing of Argentina's most enduring and most famous musical style, tango, gradually got picked up by TV and ad execs everywhere, so eventually there was no escaping GP's sultry stop-and-start tunes, as they helped to sell cars and accompanied BBC 2 programme trailers.
But the problem is on Lunatico that they seem to be making music with those lucrative TV and movie deals in mind, rather than pursuing the nobler calling of further deconstructing and reshaping tango for their original left-field audience. The adventurousness has been replaced by a cinematic lushness; the tactile rasp of an aggressively bowed violin, by John Barry-ish orchestral washes. And it's all coached in the kind of predictable breakbeats and disco rhythms one can hear anywhere.
The 10-piece band look like extras from the heaven scene in A Matter of Life or Death in their immaculate white evening wear. But against the odds, their set - which mostly consists of songs from their lacklustre latest - takes flight.
The four-piece string section attack their parts with real vigour, duelling with Nina Flores' sometimes lyrical and sometimes abrasive bandoneón. Cristina Vilallonga's warm, intimate vocals come into their own in this live context adding a necessary human warmth to proceedings, rather than struggling to be heard in a dance-floor friendly mix.
A brand new song "El Norte", with its relentless dissonance and screaming violin solo, even suggests they may yet pursue a more radical path next time around. I was reminded of fellow Argentineans, Tango Clash, whose latest album hints at the kind of heights Gotan Project could reach if they wanted to.
A predictable encore of a couple of their early successes, "Queremos Paz" and "Santa Maria" gets a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd, and I don't feel quite so bad my visit to Womad had to be cut short.Reuse content