Festival Music, Amadou & Mariam + Blind Boys of Alabama, Usher Hall, Rob Adams, three stars

Last time Amadou & Mariam appeared at the Usher Hall, the seats downstairs were removed and the audience were ready to party on arrival. With the more formal, standard seating arrangements in place it took some time for the party to get started here, even allowing for an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday for Ben Moore of the Malian couple’s co-stars, the Blind Boys of Alabama.

The Blind Boys had opened the evening with their gospel jubilee-style Walk in Jerusalem (Just like John). In years gone by their garrulous spokesman, Jimmy Carter would have got himself down into the stalls to stoke some fervour but that’s probably no longer an option and there was a more sedate, if quite jolly, feeling as the Boys, now three in number, and their guitarist worked through People Get Ready and Spirit in the Sky.

When they were joined by Amadou & Mariam for a short combined set, having already been augmented by bass and drums, spirits lifted a little without reaching the blend of Wednesday night prayer meeting and Malian celebration that their Birmingham to Bamako chorusing suggested, but it’s always good to hear Amadou’s liquid guitar soloing and his and Mariam’s natural rapport can be touching, physically and emotionally.

Two Cultures, One Beat, which celebrates the two groups’ common language of music, got closer to a feeling of communion but it was only when, during If I Had Hammer the Blind Boys urged the audience to their feet, things really loosened up, with Carter’s improbably long notes provoking much whooping and ushering in an Alabama-Bamako feelgood groove.

In association with Edinburgh Gin