At the front of the stage, a real party was happening that quickly fizzled as one walked towards the back of the room. As the majority of people filling the room preferred to listen rather than participate, the Mod Club had a more sedate ambiance on this evening. In contrast, at his last performance, the audience was a hip-to-hip, sweaty mass of grooving bodies.
Rather than having a sound technician control the microphones, the band requested to have full control themselves. And although it was extremely loud close to the stage, the musicians could all be heard equally well. Still, the quality of sound was much clearer as you moved closer to the back of the room. The soft lighting bathed the stage in alternating shades of chartreuse, red and gold, providing a calming effect on the room.
On calabash, Souleymane Kané possessed a driven rhythm; a rhythm which became explosive when he alternated to the djembé. On a number of songs, the interplay between Vieux and bassist, Mamadou Sidibé, although short, was sharp and precise as they hit their 'wow' target.
Although Vieux's previous performance in Toronto had more of a West African blues feel, this concert displayed influences of rock and reggae, some ska and Spanish flavours. And one piece, in particular, could have been performed by a flamenco band as the sound of castanets, compliments of Tim Keiper on percussion, tapped their way through the air. It appears that Vieux has been immersing himself in the cosmopolitan New York state of mind, allowing these diverse influences to seep into his music.
At one point, Vieux motioned that they were going to slow things down. And, for the following piece, an overlapping drum solo ignited a clapping-in-time accompaniment from the audience. And imperceptibly, as the clapping faded out, the drumming became slightly more mellow and slower paced, just as he had promised.
This slowness did not last for long as, "Courage", with its rock and rolling guitar undercurrent, once again, stirred up the room. In fact, many pieces in their performance showcased that sudden drop-off-the-cliff ending. There were also a few pieces with false endings where the audience would begin cheering only to have unwittingly interrupted the song as 'the band played on'.
As front man, Vieux tried chatting in French with the audience on a number of occasions. But, the language barrier with the majority of the audience gave him unintentionally lukewarm responses. At one point, Vieux waved to the crowd and the interpretation of this movement was immediate as many audience members cheered in response.
Later, he began a call-and-response singsong with the audience. After numerous attempts to elicit greater enthusiasm, he gave up, cut it off, and charged into a sudden instrumental (to erase the memory of dismal audience vocals?) as the band quickly caught up.
As the concert ended, the rousing audience applause, hollering and general noise-making brought out the band for an encore. A beautiful, extended version of "Dounia" was the only offering as the band retreated to the wings on the tail of the encore's final drumbeat.
Although the band clearly signaled that they had had enough, the audience tried unsuccessfully to lure them back to the stage. They got the message when Vieux showed up at the G.A.P. Adventures table (a primary sponsor of the Festival) to sign copies of his compact disk.