May 2005                      back

The Gipsy Kings : May 23rd at Radio City Music Hall

I just bought a new camera but since Radio City is very strict about cameras, I decided to use this picture of Brea rather than download a picture of The Gipsy Kings. The Gipsy Kings are seven middle aged Spanish speaking guitarists, mostly brothers and cousins, who hail from the town of Arles in the south of France, and who look exactly as you would imagine. :-)

They exploded onto the world music scene in 1988 with the release of their self-titled third album which gave us their first big international hit, Bamboleo and was featured in the movie La Bamba. Their music is described as Rumba-flamenco, which is a blend of flamenco with Afro-Cuban rhythms.

I've been aware of them for quite some time, but never became particularly familiar with their music. I did however, notice that whenever their name came up, people would be very enthusiastic with their exclamations describing their concerts. When WFUV made tickets available for this show, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see for myself.

Playing nylon string acoustic guitars, the royal seven are backed by bass, drums, percussion and synthesizer. Great musicians all, their pulsing rhythms had the audience up and dancing numerous times throughout the evening. Not typical in Radio City Music Hall. I had a recurring thought that between the seven of them, you'd think one would have suggested that maybe they should hire at least one great singer. They all sing, none badly, but none great. I got the impression that no one else really cared.

It actually took a little while for me to warm up to them, but when they gathered at center stage and did an instrumental tune with six guitars pounding out rhythms while one guitarist did some impressive lead guitar, I started to be drawn in. They followed that tune with an exciting up tempo Latin song which was right up my alley. (Except for the synthesizer doing the horn parts. Real horns would have been awesome).

In the end, their talent is obvious and I understand why people love them, and some of their material I enjoyed quite a bit, but they're not exactly an act that I'd rush out to see again soon.  I'm guessing that at least 10 people that I know can't believe I just said that!


Raul Midon (Danielia Cotton opens) : May 10th at Joe's Pub

Maybe you've already read one of my many reviews about this artist, but if not, here's a brief summary. His guitar skills, voice and songwriting can be described as unbelievable, amazing and fantastic (all interchangeable).  He's essentially a soulful R & B singer who infuses some Latin, Jazz, Pop and Flamenco flavors into the stew.  Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway are obvious influences.

Predicting the music business can be a tricky proposition, many very talented people never hit big time, but there are a number of indications, besides great talent, which lead me to believe that this guy will be big.  Since coming to NYC a little more than two years ago, he's accompanied Queen Latifah on a TV performance, written and recorded a song for a Spike Lee movie, recorded his first major label CD, which comes out June 7th and was produced by Arif Mardin and Joe Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan...), and will be on Letterman on June 28th.  Not enough?  OK, he played Carnegie Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival, toured nationally with Jason Mraz and was interviewed and performed live on WFUV and NPR.

One other hint is the fact that celebrities have been showing up at his gigs.  Last year after one of his shows I met Tamara Tunie, the beautiful black actress who plays the coroner on Law and Order, and after this show I went backstage to say hello, and Raul was talking with Joe Perry of Aerosmith! Can you hear the buzz?

 Opening act Danielia Cotton was a complete delight. She's a bluesy rocker with a powerful soulful voice. At times she reminded me of Janis Joplin, Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt but with the scorching guitar work of Kevin Salem, her love of hard rock also came thru.

She finished her half hour set by putting down her guitar and singing a bluesy ballad called Shame which put the room into one of those nirvanic trances. When she finished, the room was full of excitement and exclamations. You can expect to see me at some of her future gigs.

Before the show I had some great chats with WFUV member Teresa and fellow music fanatic Courtney, who like me, is friendly with Raul and Kathleen. After the show I spoke with Raul and Kathleen as well as Danielia and her manager Anthony Liberatore from HipShake Music.

Kathleen and Raul were both astonished that they had tried Joe Perry's BBQ sauce that very afternoon, not knowing he would be at the gig! Danielia was humble and charming and Anthony gave me a copy of her 6 song promotional CD which I listened to on the way home. It includes songs written by Danielia and guitarist Kevin and a sexy cover of Patty Griffin's Every Little Bit. I've listened to it several times already and give it a big thumbs up.  

Tickets for the above exciting evening were $15. All the times I've seen Raul in the last two years has cost less than 1 Paul McCartney ticket. Who says there are no bargains in New York?