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Baaba Maal, St George’s March 21

March 27, 2011

An odd evening, this. A few things got in the way of appreciating the music – though when we got there it was fine: The man does have the voice of a god, after all, and it comes across fantastically well in the space.

First, though, we had to sit through 45 mins of extremely lame chat. As well as being a waste of time in itself, this left less time for the music (around another three quarters of an hour). And it was so tedious it tried the patience severely.

It looked OK on paper, when the regular Baaba Maal band gig which St G’s advertised was updated to indicate this was going to be different. Not the regular band but something more stripped down. And a conversational exploration beforehand of how African story and myth feed into music making. That might have been interesting. But we didn’t get it. Maal’s interlocutor, Kwame Kwei-Armah, put some unimaginative, and plainly agreed life story questions, and got rehearsed answers. Again and again. Man, it was dull. The Artsdesk reviewer found some of the chat “fascinating”, but we seem to have missed those parts. I don’t think I dozed off, though it was a close thing.

So the mood when Kwei-Armah finally left Maal to it was a bit subdued, to say the least. Hearing a bunch of his songs, with simple accompaniment of hypnotic guitar riffs and percussion, was striking, and some consolation for the misleading billing. But a far from satisfactory evening nonetheless. So unsatisfactory, in fact, that I dropped the promoters, Serious, a line afterwards to ask what they thought was supposed to happen in the first half, but answer came there none…


p.s. sounds like the earlier gig in Manchester (see below) was even worse for talk/music ratio, and audience became restive. Not surprising.

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