Review: Vieux Farka Touré @ Kings Place (London, 27th January)


A highly expectant crowd of Kings Place world music regulars were treated to Vieux Farka Touré’s stunning guitarwork this Wednesday in an entertaining yet unpolished show.

Coming out clothed in shimmering green with a to-be-caressed forest green guitar, Vieux was personally on blistering form. Firmly placed in the shortlist of Africa’s most in-demand guitarists, his catchy hooks were interspersed with finger-licking guitar wanderings, his playing possessing a rarely witnessed plectrumless purity. With his signature high-pitched blues perfectly suited to his messy wailings, he himself was lost in his impressive soloing, between which he didn’t disappoint the crowd with his quiet charisma.

However, individual tracks tended to be extended for 30 seconds too long, summing up an unpolished evening. With difficult lighting transitions and awkward gaps during inter-song tunings, the order of songs was also slightly off. One track would work you up to bust a move while the next would curb your enthusiasm with a slightly softer beat. The surprisingly rocky ballads were satisfying yet the three-piece were lacking in mid-tones and variation between tracks. It was by no means a rounded journey from start to finish.

A light smattering of those who could not resist the beat danced during his speedier numbers but were quickly sat down by slower tracks. However this clumsiness was dismissed when Touré asked everyone to stand and get moving for his last tunes – an equally fun and naff ending to a patchy concert. It is understandable that in an overly-polished routine you may lose the authenticity of his organic strumming, yet the venue did not suit the performance which needed standing boogy-space.

However the evening flew by as you could not help but be impressed by his individual skill. A highlight came in his performance of ‘Ali’, named after his internationally-renowned father. With a harder, faster beat, it was quintessentially African. His rip-roaring guitar solos seemed effortless, stroking his strings with ease.

For this reason, the crowd were incredibly appreciative. His alluring personality was summed up when responding to an inquisitive audience member who asked what tune his guitar was in, to which responded ‘It’s not the guitar, it’s how you play it’. However the performance needed more punts, more difference, integrated into a whole performance. Like his albums, the gig was compulsively listenable, but it hung too much to an endearing yet nonetheless similar sound. The ‘Hendrix of the Sahara’ showed his talent, but this gig needed honing.

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  1. Dan

    Hendrix’s shows were usually a big mess if you were looking for smooth showmanship. And too short. But if you were looking for great playing, they were incomparable. I’m going to see Toure’s show on Friday in Albuquerque and looking forward to great playing, even if the production values are not up to Disney’s standards.

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