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Celtic Connections review: Amadou & Mariam

Amadou & Mariam

Amadou & Mariam

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Seen on January 22

Let's look for silver linings: due to "unforeseen circumstances", the Malian husband-and-wife team couldn't perform their completely-in-the-dark Eclipse show in Glasgow but, with the stage lights up, our eyes could then witness the fleet fingers of Amadou Bagakado as he burned through heavy blues solos that would make Clapton swoon. That's blues as in distinctively African blues, of course, where extra notes are fitted in between the existing notes and the instinctive style reveals the primary source from which all other rock tributaries flow.

As thrilling as Amadou's playing is, it was only one element in an infectious mix that caused pockets of dance to break out in corners of the room before the slightest of encouraging nudges had the entire crowd on its feet. Theirs is a perfect fusion of African roots and European pop: a frontline that includes the alternating vocals of Amadou and wife Mariam Doumbia, plus funky bass and African percussion, laid over a backline that features Hammond-style soul chords and hefty but more rhythmically straight rock drumming. In this vibrant context, only the synthetic electro swirls of Sabali, wearing its Damon Albarn/Gorillaz influence on its sleeve, felt like a calculated intrusion.

Alan Morrison

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