I am not very religious, but I do consider myself very spiritual, and if I were to attend a church, it would be something that included the music of these guys. I do not mean to sound overly dramatic, but I was nearly moved to tears several times by the power that I felt coming from this stage. There were four men, two Malian (Muslim) and two Israeli (Jewish), and the music that they make together is as piano player and singer Idan Raichel calls religious on certain songs especially. It was one of my favorite musical experiences that I have ever had.
It was on Boulder’s coldest day of the year up until that point, and the temperature literally dropped 50 degrees from the morning to the evening time. These four men all flew in from warm climate countries, and were surprised to find the freezing cold as were some of the locals here, since it was our first of the season. None the less, people knew the magnitude of what they were going to see, so the theater was still full.
Sadly, I missed the opener, Ian Cooke, because my Eagles were playing on Monday Night Football, but there was a buzz about the theater regarding how good he was. I was bummed that I missed him, but since he is a local, I’m sure I will see him soon enough. I got there just in time, and the band’s opening song featured a violin introduction by the band’s bassist, Yogev Glusman. The second song was sung by Idan Raichel while plucking strings on his piano, muting them, and other innovative techniques to fill the sound. It concluded with Raichel and Farka Toure soloing back and forth until the song ended. The next song was one of my favorites of the night. Farka Toure sang this one so powerfully. I cannot say enough about Vieux Farka Toure. I have reviewed his shows several times, and ever since I first saw him at Bonnaroo in 2009, I have seen him every possible chance that I could. His father Ali Farka Toure has been an inspiration of mine for several years, and since the first time I have seen Vieux, I have felt the same about him. Ali is a Malian legend in many ways. There is even a legend about Ali, who was a big man, that tells about how he warded off a rebellious army that was about to cause destruction to his town, simply by playing guitar in the streets and blocking the bandit’s way. Vieux Farka Toure did not take his father’s advice to join the army instead of playing the guitar. Instead, he taught himself and learned in secret. Thank goodness for that or else we would not be blessed with the talents of this virtuoso’s skills. It is something that you have to see up close to believe. His style is so unique and fast that every guitar player or teacher should be required to know about him.
After, Idan Raichel spoke to the audience about jet lag and Emergen-C packets. He said that he thought it was hilarious that we drink a powder that is dyed a certain color to provide us with vitamins. When he was done joking, they sang a beautiful song together while Souleymane Kane, percussionist or more specifically calabash player, clicked and thumped a promiscuous heartbeat to their genuine voices. Following this song, Raichel stopped again to make the crowd chuckle. He talked about how cold it was, and then asked the sound guy if the air conditioning was on because he felt a breeze on stage. The sound guy gave him a nod, and Raichel said, “Seriously? It’s freezing outside, and you guys use the air conditioner too?” The audience started laughing, and Farka Toure told him to move on and started the next song. He then described how there are different kinds of music. There is contemporary music, which is the radio songs, and he mentioned the Beatles. Then, there is classical music. Finally, there is folk music, which comes from specific countries over thousands or hundreds of years. He told us how he wrote the next song for his synagogue, which was a tremendous honor, and then he sang the religious words like an angel.
Because they were freezing, hot tea got delivered to the stage and Idan Raichel was the first to attend to it. He mixed a bunch of honey and lemon into the tea for his band and him, and delivered it to each member. When he got back to his bench, he detailed why he prefers people not labeling the music from specific countries world music, and instead call it music from the place that it is from. And I totally agree with him. It is arrogant to assume that some music is world music and others are specific types of music, especially since all music is world music right? He eventually changed the subject to the fact that they normally have cds for sale at the merchandise table, but all of their cds got stolen in San Francisco, so they had nothing to sell.
The final three songs of the night (end of the set / encore) were very upbeat, and left the crowd smiling, clapping, and even dancing. The last song was terrific and featured a call and response between Farka Toure and the entire Boulder Theater. These musicians were so inspiring, enlightening, and sonically connected. The chance meeting of Raichel and Farka Toure in a Germany airport led them to an alliance that is without borders, religious beliefs, or politics. It comes from the soul. Their newest album is called the Paris Sessions, and they have a handful of shows left throughout the country to play. If you do not have the record or have not seen them, I would consider this collective a must see.