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Review: Theophilus London and Amadou & Mariam Heat Up SummerStage

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The acts in Central Park were hotter than the temperature as Rumsey Playfield was host to another great show.

Saturday was a scorcher in New York City, but that didn't stop a capacity crowd from turning out to watch Theophilus London and Amadou & Mariam put on a spectacular show as part of City Parks Foundation's SummerStage concert series.  

Three acts performed on Saturday for the packed house at Rumsey Playfield.  The first group was Just A Band, and I unfortunately missed their set.  Theophilus London was next, and he had already rocked Central Park the previous summer.  London came out with his band and just had fun out there on the stage.  He danced, sang, and rapped through an incredibly diverse and enjoyable set that saw him perform some of his well-known songs ("Last Name London", "Wine and Chocolates") as well as some covers.  He rapped over the theme song from "Pinky and the Brain" and covered Nat King Cole's "Calypso Blues."  He also covered another song, but which song it was escapes me.  That bothers me, because it was a really good cover.

His band used all the stage and even more, at times jumping into the photographers pit to get the crowd hyped up and spraying water bottles into the crowd to cool everybody off.  Near the end they were pulling fans onto the stage to have a dance party, and the bass player ended up right next to me wondering why the crowd was so calm right near him.  I thought they were plenty excited, and so were the people who got onstage.  They danced with London and his crew, doing the "Matrix" move a couple times, and ended things on a high note.  London's versatility showed me why his star is quickly rising.

Next up was Amadou & Mariam, a duo from Mali.  Amadou plays guitar and sings, while Mariam sings.  The two, along with their backing band, put on an unbelievable show.  It was like rock and roll meets Africa in Central Park.  Amadou played his gold-plated guitar more skillfully than many guitarists I've seen in quite a while.  Mariam and Amadou provided the vocals in their native language and all of their songs sounded so uplifting.  Combined with the rollicking fun of their jamming, the incredible percussion work, and the infectious grins from all members of the band, no one could have possibly been upset during the show.

Adding to the charm was the genuine nature of their performance.  Amadou & Mariam were both incredibly happy to share their music and were thrilled that everyone was having such a good time with them.  It all made for a feel-good performance to end the day.

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