sat 06/06/2020

New Music Reviews

Baaba Maal, St George's Bristol

mark Kidel Baaba Maal: The superstar stripped down in an intimate display of his vocal range, perfect sense of timing and musicianship

Concerts are not what they used to be: in an attempt to break the mould of conventional performance styles, promoters and artists are increasingly turning to explanatory introductions, visual aids and other means of drawing the audience in, as if music alone could not work the crowd. The Senegalese singing star Baaba Maal is touring with the journalist and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, and their show combines relaxed but clearly scripted conversation with stunning songs from Maal’s...

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A Taste of Sónar, Roundhouse

joe Muggs Buraka Som Sistema demonstrate the universal language of... music

The Sónar festival occupies a very special place in the New Music calendar – and is this year expanding outwards temporally and geographically, with new franchises in Tokyo and A Coruña, Galicia. Now into its 17th year, the parent festival in Barcelona serves as a vital meeting point for those of all stripes who refuse to acknowledge the polarisation of avant-garde and populism, or of club culture and the mainstream music industry. With 10 or more main stages and untold off-piste club events...

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Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ronnie Scott's

peter Quinn

It's not every night that an artist proposes locking the doors and having “one giant orgy of love”, but then Dee Dee Bridgewater has always had a singular take on things. This sold-out gig at Ronnie Scott's was one of those rare, did-that-really-happen-or-am-I-dreaming evenings where performer and audience reciprocally move into some kind of magical, harmonious alignment.

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Watcha Clan, Rich Mix

howard Male Watcha Clan: They should stop trying to be all things to all music fans

Why do bands still insist on dabbling in drum’n’bass? It was always an absurd, overwrought style, even when it first assaulted our eardrums in the mid-1990s. It’s more like a technological malfunction of the drum machine than a natural, felt groove, hurtling along, as it tends to, at a ridiculous 200 beats per minute. Ironically, Marseilles’s Watcha Clan probably think it’s one of their strengths that they throw a couple of tracks into their live set powered by this anachronistic rhythm, but...

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Blancmange, Koko

Peter Culshaw Blancmange: Not boring

Blancmange is a sweet pudding commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss, and often flavored with almonds, says Wikipedia. Not sure about the Irish moss bit. Blancmange is also, as any fule no, a fabulous Eighties synth duo, playing on a tour for the first time in 25 years. I know there are a few of you out there who prefer your Pet Shop Boys. Personally, I find the PSBs too much. Every track rammed full of too much stuff, eventually they make...

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Two Door Cinema Club, Roundhouse

David Cheal

Bouncy: if there is one word that sums up this hot young Northern Irish band, that would be the one; there is a Tiggerish enthusiasm to their music that encourages bouncing, clapping, arm-waving and generally having a good time, which is exactly what happened at last night's gig: a festive atmosphere prevailed, Two Door Cinema Club played a short, sharp set that lasted for little more than an hour, and they sent the crowd out into the early spring night buzzing.

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Benda Bilili!

howard Male

On first hearing about Staff Benda Bilili - a Congolese band partly made up of paraplegics – I felt a little uneasy at the prospect of reviewing them. The last thing that one wants as a (hopefully) trusted critic is to feel compromised by an obligation to either give a positive review, or feel guilty about lessening their chances of bettering their circumstances with a bad review. Yes, rather embarrassingly, the vanity and solipsism of your reviewer has no limits.

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Youssou N'Dour, Barbican

Peter Culshaw Youssou N'Dour: Voice of warm honey

Old joke: when is N’Dour not N’Dour? When he’s Frank Sinatra. The comparisons of the Chairman of the Board with Senegal’s biggest star may seem a bit far-fetched, but I wondered as I watched him whether there’s a current European or American star who has the sheer authority, laid-back charisma and utterly distinctive voice that Frank used to have and Youssou has. In Youssou’s case, his voice of warm honey and mahogany is one of the seven wonders of the world. As it happens, for the first few...

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Plan B, Brighton Centre, Brighton

Thomas H Green

After his spectacular performance at the Brit Awards, the stage running amok with a dancing jury, shimmying riot police and balletic convicts, I wasn't sure what to expect from a Plan B show. Perhaps a theatrical experience somewhere between Rick Wakeman's infamous 1975 King Arthur on Ice extravaganza and the Ray Winstone borstal flick Scum?

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Iron & Wine, Roundhouse

David Cheal Iron & Wine: The former film studies professor otherwise known as Sam Beam

Beards, beards, beards: at the Roundhouse, they seemed to be everywhere, sprouting from the chins of hundreds of chaps in the audience. Perhaps, though, I was just looking out for them, what with the luxuriant growth on the face of the man they had all come to see: Iron & Wine, the artist otherwise known as Sam Beam, singer, songwriter and former film studies professor from the American south-east.

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