Live review: Celtic Connections: Amadou & Mariam, Adam Holmes and the Embers at The Royal Concert Hall, 22/1/14

amadoumariamThere’s were rumours circulating that they were going to play this one in the dark as part of their Eclipse series of shows, whether this be completely false or it was quashed by Glasgow City Council is by the by, it didn’t happen.

Whether this would have been a good idea remains up in the air, but it’s certainly an interesting one as the pair of blind musicians would have been put on a level viewing field as their audience, but navigating the fully seated Concert Hall without any vision would be nigh on impossible, yet the lack of vision would have quelled people’s reluctance to dance for fear of blocking those behind’s view.

Let’s face it Amadou & Mariam are a party band and their wondrous afropop vibes just make you want to get up and dance – maybe stick them at the Fruitmarket or ABC next time guys.

The show is opened by a performer more akin to the traditions of Celtic Connections in Adam Holmes and the Embers, but the much loved festival has opened it’s are this year and taken in whole load of worldly performers (Dub Inc for example).

The award winning Holmes channels a more traditional folk set up, and it’s unsurprising once you’ve had a glance at his back-story, he was pretty much brought up as part of Edinburgh’s them blossoming folk scene and has risen to be one of Scotland’s best in the genre.

Yeah he’s a bit dreary for the party atmosphere that is to follow, but this is Celtic Connections, surely the most accepting of festivals, and Holmes does more than enough to win himself attention with his dry humour and skillful lyrics.

Granted he does take a bloody long time to introduce himself, had he won any fans tonight, which I’m sure he has, they’d have been worries for a while that they wouldn’t get a chance to find out who this new Scottish gem is.

From the moment the Mali duo are led on stage and Amadou Bagayoko greats the audience with “do you feel alive?” the feelgood atmosphere begins to build.

Yes, there’s a hesitancy from the audience, the Concert Hall seems a bit proper to get up and dance but within a few tracks, full of deliciously sunny African blues come pure pop, those out to sides are on their feet and dancing and it isn’t long before the aisles are full of people eager to get in with the party mood.

However, it isn’t until mid set when the band’s keyboardist jumps up to the front of stage and encourages everyone to get up and dance, which they all do with no hesitation, that the whole run erupts; it appears this was the invite everyone was waiting for as the couple lead the way in a lesson of how to have a good time.

Amadou & Mariam and their band are infectious, every little bit of the performance, from Amadou’s enthusiastic introductions and blinging gold guitar, to the band’s sheer energy and Mariam’s faultless vocal range is something you can’t not love.

Only the slowed down electronic beauty of ‘Sabali’ produces a change in pace but it does allow Mariam Doumbia’s falsetto to shine to its fullest, giving hints of longing hidden beneath their music’s colourful exteriour.

In a beautiful moment singer chants “kiss me baby, I love you” in almost mesmerising fashion as she runs her hand over her husbands head.

Whether is be for the full on party of songs like ‘Africa Mon Afrique’ and ‘Je Tense A Toi’ or a touching moment like that during ‘Sabali’ Amadou & Marium are one of the most infectious and likeable acts you’re likely to see, and that’s not just at Celtic Connections.

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Words: Iain Dawson

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