Africa Express, The Arches, Glasgow, Tue 4 Sep
An evening of supremely varied musical entertainment, featuring Damon Albarn and Carl Barat
It certainly felt like a mission accomplished for this sprawling, cross-cultural supergroup of eighty artists as their musical efforts are greeted by an enthusiastic Arches’ crowd during a near five-hour performance.
Easily the largest undertaking yet for a project which originally set out five years ago to bring western and African acts together; a diesel electric locomotive has been converted especially to take the huge party of musicians and singers between their six UK dates that form part of the London 2012 Festival.
Indeed, with so many acts involved and little or no introduction given to who is about to play as they appear across two stages, it proves hard not to pick out the more recognizable, collaborative performances on display.
The Libertines’ ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ is given a bouncy, ska-like treatment by its co-composer Carl Barat, the Rizzle Kicks’ Harley Alexander-Sule and members of The Temper Trap alongside Ethiopian funk trio, Krar Collective; Damon Albarn, one the founding figures of Africa Express and tonight’s irregular compère performs a piano-led duet of Gorillaz ‘On Melancholy Hill’ with the near operatic-voiced Malian singer Rokia Traore, while Reverend and the Makers’ John McClure and the returning Barat offer an energetic, if not entirely tuneful version of the Clash’s 'Train in Vain', backed by the distinctive guitar of Amadou Bagayoko.
Though its slightly ramshackle format meant that an opportunity to offer a western audience a bit of an insight into the African acts involved was probably missed, overall, the artistic endeavour and hard-work that had gone into this unique musical venture could not be faulted, resulting in an enjoyable evening of supremely varied musical entertainment.