Review: Amadou and Mariam & the Blind Boys of Alabama at Usher Hall

There’s no denying the born talent Amadou & Mariam possess, however, this gig was just all too reminiscent of a school assembly at times with no one quite able to relax into it until the end.

Opening proceedings were Blind Boys of Alabama. Donned in immaculate matching beige suits, the trio performed a professional and politely received rendition of ‘People Get Ready’ with their heavy oak finish harmonies present throughout which was a real signature of their sound.

Four or five numbers in, Amadou & Mariam joined them on stage in their sharp red attire for a few numbers prior to the former exiting and letting the headliners get down to what they do best.

With powerful tones and wonderfully cohesive energy between the two of them, it was sadly difficult to ignore the sound issues in the venue, and that much of the duo’s attempted audience interaction was lost. Perhaps it was this that held band and audience back from being fully immersed in the occasion.

There was a special moment when Jimmy Connor from Blind Boys reappeared to sing a raspy ‘Way Down In the Hole’ with the main act and their tight rhythm section. A song most recognisable as the Tom Waits penned theme song from The Wire.

A strong encore saw the crowd in the stalls rise from their seats and let loose, with the performers really upping their game as the audience raised their levels. It was just a pity it took so long for both parties to warm up, if the intensity had been at that level throughout and the sound was more on side, it could have been a truly memorable performance. As it was though, it was a decent show lacking any lasting magic.

Amadou and Mariam & the Blind Boys of Alabama, Usher Hall, 7 Aug, 8pm

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