Vieux Farka Toure has a loyal and fervent following in London and they turned out in their droves to see the Malian guitar master last night – it is fair to say that on the hottest day of the year the non-stop dancing in the capacity crowd lifted the temperature a few more degrees.

Taking the stage with just his touring sidekicks Mamadou Kone (drums & Calabash) and Valery Assounan (bass) the three were the very epitome of a Saharan power trio.

Farka Toure’s guitar playing is, frankly, incredible. He has a sense of rhythm that sets the listener off immediately into some very inappropriate gyrations and every number from the opening ‘Bonheur’ to closer ‘Homafu Wawa’ had the entire crowd either clapping, dancing, singing along or a combination of all three – the man is a master showman but he leaves it to his music to produce the fireworks.

I have seen him before – notably at the Royal Festival Hall – but the development as both a guitarist and as a songwriter just blew me away and songs that were fabulous on the ‘Samba’ album came over as brilliant springboards for his improvisation. It is very clear just why he is called the Hendrix of the Sahara – there is no-one who can approach his playing today and he is constantly setting new standards for what can be achieved with a guitar but he never loses sight of the music that lies at the heart of his playing and through number after number sent the music into higher and higher realms.

Standout for the night, for me, was a stunning ‘Samba Si Kairi’ that meandered and folded on and around itself, always in touch with the main theme but always threatening to take on a life of its own. Breathtaking.
The closer ‘Homafu Wawa’ had the crowd in raptures and the feeling as the three left the stage was of a huge hole in the air.

I don’t think I’ve seen a musician of the same standard as Toure in the last couple of years – definitely a gig of the year contender.

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