Live Review: Amadou & Mariam at The Triple Door 8/10

all photos by Alan Lawrence (view set)

Review by Clare McGrane, DJ assistant for Wo’Pop on KEXP

The Triple Door is a beautiful venue, but with its fixed private booths and elegant dining service, it isn’t really designed for dancing. Thankfully that didn’t get in the way of the packed house that showed up to see Malian Afrobeat legends Amadou and Mariam. A few songs into their set, guitar-playing frontman Amadou insisted: “Everybody dance together!” and the people obliged. Before you could blink, dancers took over the aisles and swelled to the front of the venue, surprising the silent waiters who dutifully delivered glasses of wine through the chaos.

Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, where they both performed in the school’s Eclipse Orchestra. They bonded over their love of music and began performing as a duo, starting with Malian blues music. They released their first recorded music in the early 80’s. Since then they’ve become beloved figures in Mali and beyond, growing into a genre-breaking, Grammy-nominated tour de force.

Their music is sneakily infectious. You can’t help moving to it, and neither can they — although the pair stayed put on the stage throughout the show, they were constantly moving a hand, a shoulder, bopping their heads to their rhythm. Below their signature cool sunglasses, they grinned as the crowd danced in the aisles, making new friends. Amadou led the group’s performance, lapsing into 10-minute long jam sessions with the other musicians. Mariam seems to be the shyer of the two, but her voice soared throughout the night.

Their music also incredibly expressive — they wholeheartedly play with the edge of the sounds and the genres they explore. Still, it doesn’t feel experimental per se. It feels warm, earthy and somehow familiar like a rock warmed by the sun — but it still manages to surprise you.

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