Africa Express, The Arches, Glasgow
Wednesday 05 September 2012
“Feedback piano - it's the future!” declared Damon Albarn after one of the allowable technical glitches which assailed this show - surely one of his biggest musical undertakings to date - and only slightly sullied a wonderful piano duet of Gorillaz’ !'On Melancholy Hill' between himself and the powerfully-voiced Malian singer Rokia Traore. Expect charts and awards ceremonies to soon be filled with artists celebrating the applied misuse of amplification equipment, because Albarn sure knows how to spot a trend and jump on it when he sees it.
In fairness, his musical career outside Blur or Gorillaz during the last ten years has proven his interest in the traditional and popular styles of the African continent to be an abiding passion rather than a passing interest. This large-scale, London 2012-sponsored package tour of collaborating UK and African musicians sold itself in accessible form, right down to the specially commandeered train-come-rehearsal space which is carrying the crew around the country, and which pulled into Glasgow Central station earlier in the day amidst much media fanfare.
With nearly eighty musicians representing more than forty individual groups across two stages and four hours, the briefest of occasional onstage introductions and no formal running order were perhaps not enough to satisfy the curious audience member who wanted to find out more about many of the unheralded African artists appearing before them.
So the focus inevitably shifted to the familiar, and how it had been manipulated by on-the-tracks rehearsals during the day: the Libertines’ 'Don’t Look Back Into the Sun' performed by its co-composer Carl Barat, Harley Alexander-Sule from Rizzle Kicks and members of The Temper Trap alongside Ethiopian funk trio Krar Collective; Bombay Bicycle Club’s Jack Steadman trying to keep up with the frantic jazz drums played over his own 'Shuffle'; and Reverend and the Makers’ John McClure growling out the Clash’s 'Train in Vain' with Barat’s backing vocals and Amadou Bagayoko’s chiming guitars in the background.
Undoubtedly the show was a highly entertaining success, although perhaps a qualified one, with those who weren’t inclined to take notes perhaps remaining unaware that Traore’s was the name behind that elemental vocal, or that the Zanzibarian Mim Suleiman was the woman with the ferocious voice and dance moves appearing alongside Krar Collective in the second room. This is only a small retrospective complaint, though, and as Albarn’s version of Rocket Juice and the Moon’s 'Poison' cranked up into an improvised rap tribute to Tony Allen, the drummer whose friendship with Albarn helped start it all, it was impossible to escape the feeling we’d witnessed something thrillingly unique.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food