Ikonography/Barry CheungNatacha Atlas

African Soul Rebels
Philharmonic Hall, 4th March 2006

Reviewed by Caroline Afifi and Kathy Cheung

Having long been fans of Natacha Atlas, we were looking forward to seeing her again at the Phil. Natacha has been one of few artists in the west to bring Arab music to a culturally diverse audience in the accessible form of creative fusions.

The set included favourites such as 'Moustahil' and her beautiful interpretation of 'I Put a Spell on You'. Musically, the performance was very tight and dynamic but there were moments of awkwardness in places - the set list appeared to be absent and between songs there were delays due to discussions between the singer and her band. During the performance Natacha seemed unable to interact with the audience – on only one or two occasions did she acknowledge an audience presence and this came in the form of dance, which was great both technically and in entertainment value.

Overall it was a good performance carried by amazing vocals, superb musicians and a very supportive audience. For us, the star of the show was tabla virtuoso Ali Minyawi who provided us with a spectacular high energy drum solo that rocked! All in all Natacha and the band were a well-appreciated replacement for Algerian musician Souad Massi, who unfortunately had to cancel.

The Philharmonic is one of our favourite music venues but for this type of gig we feel we would have enjoyed it more if it had taken place in a more 'club' style environment. So... the moral of the story is, with big venues come big expectations. Maybe see you at the Magnet for a good bop next time Natacha?

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