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Bombino overcomes sound issues with expressive show

Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., March 16, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Bombino has made a name for himself on the world music circuit with his sharp, staccato guitar playing with a bit of an Arabic/Middle Eastern feel.

The Niger-born singer, who eventually fled to Algeria in his youth due to politics, performs in Tamasheq. So, it's not going to be the lyrics that move a U.S. crowd, but the music. And Bombino has done well for himself as his most recent disc, "Deran," was nominated for a Grammy for Best World Music Album.

Bombino certainly acquitted himself with his guitar playing. There's a bite to his playing, while also aided by a second guitarist.

But the problem on this night was that it was awfully hard to hear Bombino's guitar or vocals. In a small room holding 525, it was still hard to simply hear Bombino's guitar licks a third of the way back in the room. What was heard loud and clear was the bass, making it very bottom heavy and overwhelming the rest of the band.

That changed about two-thirds of the way the 110-minute show with the appearance of guest guitarists Chris Decato and former Bombino band member Ari Sollaway, who lives in the Boston area.

The presence of both guitarists in separate songs seemed to correct the sound issues, including the vocals. Sollaway brought a lot of joy and expression to his playing, clearly happy to be back on stage with Bombino.

That was enough to decrease the frustration. Bombino showed himself through song, playing and singing to be a musical force. If only, the sound cooperated.

Boston-area band Dead Messengers shared a keyboardist with Bombino, but not much more. Dead Messengers played rock, the blues and soulful songs and were a group trying to find its musical identity. That was not a surprise given that this was only the band's second gig ever. This was a nice start for the group.