Monday, December 9, 2019

Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi @ Café de la Danse, Paris - December 9th, 2019

Rhiannon Giddens is probably the best ambassador of American roots music today. Through her various projects and the multitude of instruments she masters, including her spellbinding voice, she tells the stories of the people and the myths that have informed America, wherever they may be from.

Her current project with Italian composer Francesco Turrisi sees her broadening her horizons even further, building musical bridges between America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East...

The bulk of the night's repertoire was culled from their first album together, the wonderful There Is No Other: great original tunes like Ten Thousand Voices, Wayfaring Stranger or He Will See You Through, and an dazzling version of the Italian classic Pizzica di San Vito.

They also played material from Giddens' solo career, songs like At The Purchaser's Option and Following the North Star, and, in keeping with the concept of musical cross-pollination, an interpretation of an opera piece and a raucous Rn'B number by Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

There are only three performers on the stage: Rhiannon Giddens, who sings and plays the banjo, violin and some percussion, Francesco Turrisi, who plays piano, accordion and a number of percussions and Jason Sypher on bass. All of them display an impressive mastery of their instruments, but the stage undoubtedly belongs to Giddens, her elegant silhouette, her virtuosic playing and her mesmerising voice.

Both Giddens and Turrisi are musicologists and they peppered the set with little stories and anecdotes about their songs and instruments which put it all in context for the audience. But this was no lecture. This was no seminar. And in spite of the dark subject matters tackled here, this wasn't a somber affair. It was a very relaxed, almost intimate moment, as illustrated by Giddens' on stage demeanour: barefoot, sipping on a cup of tea, casually conversing with the audience.

I love Rock and Roll. I love loud, stupid, vulgar music. But in this age of meaningless, shallow entertainment, in this culture which rewards ignorance and exhibitionism, what a treat it is to witness such a delicate, informative, elevating, intelligent performance. A mesmerising event that you walk out of a better person.

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