Saturday, April 6, 2013

Oliver Mtukudzi, Cleveland Museum of Art, April 5, 2013

Last night I saw Oliver Mtukudzi and The Black Spirits at the Cleveland Museum of Art, in the new atrium. Part of the museum's Viva and Gala Series of world music and dance events, this one eschewed the lovely Gartner Auditorium for the atrium so that there could be a dance area in front of the stage. The evening was billed as a Tuku Dance Party, and it certainly was that in spades. It was quite impressive that so many of the attendees got on their feet, especially since the crowd was mostly older. Although given the polyrhythmic music, maybe not that much of a surprise.

The band was small, but the sound was plenty large, with Mtukudzi on acoustic-electric guitar, backed by bass, drums and two percussionists. Everyone except the drummer sang. Mtukudzi's guitar was remarkably fluid, his effortless picking style producing essentially all of the melody. All three percussionists were great, and they added sparkle to the performance with dance moves and generally good party fun. The drummer and bass player held down the rhythm, locked into a groove, and carried the songs, allowing the percussionists and Mtukuzdi to play the flourishes that added excitement to the arrangements.

Mtukudzi's voice is a strong baritone that is as fluid and flexible as the best soul singers. The back-up vocals were contrastingly high, and consistently good. The mix was good, loud but not excessive, and the band played for over 90 minutes pretty much nonstop. They opened the show with a slow ballad that was lovely, but after that it was party time. The band was big fun to watch, dancing and playful, and tight and hot.

If they come your way, and you want a fun night of dancing and joy, don't miss it.

No comments:

Post a Comment