I don't claim to know a lot about the Afro Celt Sound System. I'm writing this as a latecomer to the music, apart from a memory of the collaboration with Sinead O' Connor Release. We feel people should always try something different, step out of your musical comfort zone. Also our son is studying music GCSE and fusion is likely to be something he should know about. But before we know it, we were on our feet dancing.
The band numbered 10 on stage. The cultural mix of both the people and the music creates a perfect storm of joy and a need to dance. I have never seen so many people get up and dance at the Tyne Theatre and I gave up taking photos after a song and a half...rather than the customary 3, as I didn't want to interfere with the happy dancing people at the front. There was also a drum solo the like of which I've never seen before. The venue's acoustic qualities really did the complex sound justice and deserves a mention.
Simon Emmerson was joined by long-term members’ vocalist, kora and balafon player N’Faly Kouyaté and Dhol drummer Johnny Kalsi. There were contributions from a host of other outstanding musicians, including guests Tyneside's own Peter Tickell on fiddle, Ged Lynch on drums, Simon Richmond on keyboards and Lottie Cullen on pipes and whistle.
The show opened with the beautiful Sanctus from Flight and the set included the intensely rythmic Desert Billy, the massive After The Rain and of course Release which opened the second half of the show. The phone torches were lit for Dark Moon High Tide. There truly was dancing in the aisles and the audience had a fantastic evening.
The music blends various African styles, Irish folk, North Indian, western dance, rock, blues to create something really special.
There were instruments I had never seen on stage before, like Kouyaté's kora and the xylophone-like balafon. At least 3 percussionists on stage and the massive beats bass created by Simon Richmond's synths made for a big dance sound made jiggier by the fiddle, flute and pipes. There were wonderful vocals also by two great female singers from Hackney and D.R. Congo whose names I didn't catch.
We came away with the new album Flight, as what we heard made us feel we needed this in the collection. With sales now topping one and a half million albums and two Grammy nominations to date, Afro Celt Sound System recently celebrated their 20th Anniversary. With such a fabulous and diverse collective of musicians this can only keep evolving for the next 20. I'm so glad to have had the chance to see such a great band.