This was a very short gig. It was characterised by its shortness. If I had to choose the salient feature of this gig, it would be that it was short. Its essence resides in its lack of length. I doubt I’ve ever been to a show where the headliner played for less time. 42 minutes, to be exact – and no encore.
Prior to the evening, I had not heard Omar Souleyman’s latest album, the Kieran Hebden (of Four Tet)-produced Wenu Wenu, but catching the track ‘Yagbuni’ on a monthly compilation had piqued my interest. Its mix of driving electronic techno beats overlaid with sinuous Middle-Eastern lead lines, topped off with an outrageous synth solo at the coda courtesy of keyboardist Rizan Sa’id, really hit the spot. Alas, the ingredients in this recipe fail to rise in the live context, despite Souleyman’s much-publicised years as a wedding entertainer in his native Syria.
Perhaps if a few more real live musicians were added to the mix, the keyboard accompaniment might sound less pre-packaged, and the results might be groovier. There is something inherently unsettling about hearing kettle drum fills resounding from a pre-recorded backing track. By no stretch of the imagination could this be called a riveting live draw. Besides which, if there is a Syrian equivalent of the stage Irishman, Omar is it. With his dark shades, red and white headdress and long black soutane, he looks like Middle America’s idea of a card-carrying Taliban member.
Not that you couldn’t dance to it, but it was just starting to take off when he decided to quit. Was this a brief showcase gig, and nobody told me? What about those audience members who’d forked out for a babysitter, Omar? Or the ones who’d travelled in from Drogheda or Dundalk? Did they think they’d got value for money? The most remarkable aspect of Souleyman’s early exit was the lack of dissent among the punters at realising it was all over before 10:30.
And so, to indulge in a spot of imitative form, this short review of this gig, which was notable mainly for its brevity, will terminate here.