Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player




A review by James Buxton w for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Vieux Farka Toure


With Support from The Oli Brown Band


Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre

12 February 2012



Young guitar virtuoso, and winner of the 2011 British Blues Award for Best Band, The Oli Brown Band opens tonight's proceedings with a swaggering dose of blues infused rock that blows the amps up to eleven. Resembling a youthful Jimmy Page, hidden behind a curly Afro obscuring his face, Oli Brown matches him not only in looks but skill, his fingers nimbly sliding up and down the neck of his Vanquish guitar with immense speed and dexterity as his drummer and bassist pound out rolling bass lines of pure stadium Rock.

Brown’s dusky voice compliments their hard edged blues with a gravelly quality, sounding like it’s on the edge of a storm brewing. He strangles out strings along the neck of his Vanquish, as it squeals back out in delight, plunging into solos where notes blossom into deep rooted earth shuddering riffs as the drummer smashes stones into pools of electric distortion.

Despite the fact that the band looked a little uncomfortable playing to a crowd of people sitting in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, you get the feeling they would be more at home thrashing it out in a field somewhere in Glastonbury to a crowd full of Led Zeppelin Roadies, Oli Brown still manages to carry the gig off with charisma. Whatever your opinion, if you like Blues Rock, Oli Brown Band are a power trio that needs to be on your play list.

By the time Vieux Farka Toure arrives on the stage, the sense of hushed awe is almost tangible. Heralding from Niafunke in Mali and the son of legendary guitar player, Ali Farka Toure, Vieux has carved his own groove out of the shadow of his father’s legacy. His third studio album, The Secret, was released in 2011, so called because the listener will be privy to the secret of the blues passed down from father to son.

And what a secret Toure has been hiding all this time. Nicknamed “The Hendrix of the Sahara”, Toure resembles more of a Griot in his starched white robes than a psychedelic rock legend. However it is Toure’s astonishing skills as an axe man that earn him the title. He differentiates himself from the ancient Griots, for instead of Kora, he plays an electric guitar. In fact Toure doesn’t play the guitar, the guitar plays him. Never has anyone so effortlessly slid his fingers up and down a guitar, so lightly clasped its neck and seemed absolutely at one with his instrument.

The music flows out of Toure as naturally as a river into the sea. His sound is not so much music, as a religious experience. Toure’s moody voice is empowered with a transcendental quality, to uplift the spirits and transport you to the vast Savannah's of Africa, at once harsh and soft, soothing and strong; it is the voice of an old man berating himself, or a young mother calming her child, it is the voice of a people.

However Toure’s music has evolved out of a confluence of two musical traditions, the ancient music of Mali and the backwater blues of the Mississippi Delta. In Toure’s stunning solos you can hear the jangling of the Kora and the bold blues progression of the acoustic guitar. He strikes a balance between the ancient and the contemporary but infuses his music with a spiritually that exalts it from the status of simply a song, to a ceremony, an invocation for a more profound sense of being.

Toure is a fine performer whose stage presence is so assured, you almost feel slightly uncertain if he is going to stare at you suspiciously, or flash you one of his benevolent smiles. In his performance, as much as it is entertainment, whether he’s swaying in tandem with his cheery bassist, Valery Assouan, or sparing solos with Oli Brown, whom he invites on stage for an impromptu face off of epic proportions, there is a sense that there is something much more complex going on beneath the surface. That Toure’s music is the living embodiment of an ancient, developing culture encountering a modern developed world, and the trepidation or excitement which that holds.


12 February 2012

Queen Elizabeth Hall,
Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road,
London SE1 8XX.


Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved