The Gipsy Kings @ Birchmere, Washington DC - Jan 20, 2014.
The 25th Anniversary tour makes its way to the Birchmere for this famous band from the south of France. I thought the steep ticket price (even as it comes with their new album as a bonus) may keep people away, but there was a good crowd, although short of a sell-out.
This is an elaborate production musically, as the six Gipsy Kings all brandish acoustic guitars in front of a band comprised of keyboards, bass, drums, and percussion. Four of them sing together or with different lead vocalists, aside from the instrumental tunes. Thankfully, the sound man was up to the task as everything was crisp and clear.
This is a family band consisting of brothers and cousins (and they seem a lot more together than the Wilson/Love clan). Although flamenco music is the starting point, they seem to have additional influences at work. One cousin handles all the lead guitar work and although he has flamenco flair, I could easily see some of his runs translated on electric guitar in front of a monster hard rock band. The rhythms are excellent, on the percussion as well as the guitar and they keep a brisk pace all through the set.
Later on they moved around to the back-up musicians allowing them plenty of solo time. I believe this was the first time I have seen a bassist play with his left hand fingering the fretboard through a towel. Pretty cool, although it was disarming to me as he looked like an auditor I used to work for, the inappropriately named Ernie Kite.
The spirited music worked its charm on the crowd and had many of them dancing in the aisles. I wondered if it would have been more fun on the second stage which is all standing, but this show reminds me of why the Birchmere struggles to find that balance with a show where some people need to sit and relax, while others want to get up and dance by having two stages where it is one and not the other. Still, I doubt too many people tonight left unhappy as this music should charm even people who knew little about the band.
Photo Credits: (1) Gipsy Kings (unknown/website).