POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Gipsy Kings Stick With the Familiar : The flamenco-pop group, which plays Irvine Meadows tonight, presents vibrant sounds within its usual format in a : well-received show at the Greek.
Admit it: Aren’t you getting just a little sick of the Gipsy Kings? For three years now, it seems like all you’ve had to do is set foot in any mid-scale restaurant, boutique or hair salon to hear the Kings’ flamenco-pop.
Presumably the 6,000-plus fans at the Greek Theatre on Thursday--and the same number planning to be there on Friday--have not tired of the ubiquitous sounds. Thursday’s crowd certainly didn’t act like it, greeting most of the songs with warm-to-ecstatic applause and often clapping the intricate counter-rhythms to the jaunty music. It’s easier to see why in the live setting than from the group’s recordings, which through the over-familiarity have been reduced to elevator music with a Mediterranean accent.
On Thursday, all the vibrant colors that came through when the sounds were new to our ears were flowing once again from the acoustic guitars of the six brothers, cousins and in-laws who front the group, and from the modernized four-member backing arranged by bassist Gerard Provost. At best, the songs centered around singer Nicolas Reyes’ almost Islamic wail and Tonino Baliardo’s speedy, precise guitar leads to conjure images of the music’s ancient Andalusian roots.
(But it wasn’t enough to justify the Kings’ concluding each song with raised arms and bows as if they were the Flying Wallendas. This is hardly death-defying stuff. The group hit on a sound some time ago and sticks to it, straight and narrow.)
To the Kings’ credit, the group--which plays Irvine Meadows tonight--does not pander to the American audience: No English was spoken or sung on stage and such novelties as flamenco-ized versions of “My Way” and “Volare” have been abandoned. But the group panders to a genteel, conservative--and now predictable--aesthetic. Would that this Gipsy caravan snaked through more exotic lands.
The Gipsy Kings play tonight at 8 at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8800 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine. Tickets: $22.50 to $25. Information: (714) 855-8096.