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Concert Review: Amadou & Mariam (Dallas/Houston 7/21-7/22)

July 24, 2009

9 A&M

Amadou and Mariam are a blind couple from Mali who have been recording music together since the 1980s.

Coldplay’s second opening act was Amadou & Mariam, a band that I have referenced on my blog many times before.  Since I had already listened to Welcome to Mali and liked it, I was really looking forward to seeing them live.  Sure enough, they did not disappoint.  Amadou & Mariam employ a cast of lively characters in their band; a guitarist, a drummer, a keyboardist, a crowd-pleasing African percussionist, and two female backup singers/dancers.  Amadou himself is a pretty great guitarist (with a wicked-cool gold guitar) and he and Mariam cut a cute figure on stage where they stick close together while they sing and play.

The quality of the musicianship for both shows was top-notch, and although it did seem the crowd in Dallas was more into the music than in Houston, the band themselves seemed to be having a better time in Houston.  They played several cuts from Welcome to Mali in the set and as is the fashion, the tracks were extended with cheerful and absorbing guitar and drum solos, and a dance “contest” between the backup singers that brought the crowd to life regardless of location.

13 A&M

Because they were the openers, their act was abbreviated.  Even so, it would have killed at a place like the ACL festival, where the crowds come to see bands like these, and I can definitely see it being a highlight of a long festival experience.  Amadou & Mariam become part of the ambiance of a delightfully enjoyable whole-band experience, where professionalism and crowd appeal come together seamlessly in the type of show that people would talk about after the fact.

The duo doesn’t speak English fluently, but when they talk, they’re clearly happy to have their jobs and to hear the crowd cheer back (a particularly funny point was when they invoked Coldplay’s name in a thank you, only to kind of misprounce it, leading me to believe they might not have ever heard of Coldplay before this tour).  Their tracks are totally groove-worthy, almost making you forget about the nearly unbearable July-in-Texas heat and humidity, and they stay stuck in your head long after you’ve heard them.  Amadou & Mariam live supported the buzz their albums have earned, and I personally can’t wait to see them live for a longer set.

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