REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Vieux Farka Touré, The Crescent, York, 7/11/2022

Close-up Vieux: Vieux Farka Touré “absolutely in his element on stage, elegantly dressed and enjoying the music” at The Crescent, York on Monday. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

A MONDAY night to remember in the company of Vieux Farka Touré, guitar-playing son of the late Ali Farka Touré, one of the brightest of stars to emerge from Mali.

Vieux has forged his own reputation as a guitarist through relentless touring and clever collaborations. Sons of famous fathers do not always find a way to reconcile that looming shadow, but Vieux’s most recent record, Ali, is his best yet. Recorded with Khruangbin, one of the planet’s coolest collectives, from Houston, Texas, Touré updates and celebrates his father’s songs.

The setlist drew extensively from Ali and also Les Racines, Toure’s other album from 2022. Performing as a trio, Vieux was absolutely in his element on stage, elegantly dressed and enjoying the music. The frequent smiles and eye contact between the musicians spoke of the level of understanding between them.

Vieux Farka Touré: Updating and celebrating his father’s songs

The concert hit a purple patch about three songs in, when Vieux switched to electric guitar and the musicians really locked into one another. Tongo Barra and Tamalia were the highlights: lithe, hip swinging and possessed of the sort of groove you didn’t want to end.

It was a coup for the Crescent to book Touré, and another fine feather for York promoters Ourboros. The sold-out atmosphere reflected that. The place was crowded but not rammed, in good spirits but not rowdy and somewhere where all ages could feel comfortable in the dark.

As the 11-song set ranged on, the tone shifted from the desert blues Touré is known for toward a much heavier sound, one that punched harder but swung and grabbed less. This guitar attack is built for touring and can stun an audience in seconds. Sacrificing some of the depth and ease of his albums, Touré was nevertheless a fine showman and the fluidity of his guitar playing was a wonder from start to finish.

Review by Paul Rhodes

Ali, a collaborative studio album of Ali Farka Touré covers by Malian singer and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and Texan trio Khruangbin, was released on September 23 on Dead Oceans. 

Touré on tour: Vieux Faraka Touré’s “guitar attack is built for touring and can stun an audience in seconds”