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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Gipsy Kings Take Familiar Path

Admit it: Aren’t you getting just a little sick of the Gipsy Kings? For three years now, it’s seemed like all you have to do is set foot in any mid-scale restaurant, boutique or hair salon and you 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. They 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 over-familiarity have been reduced to elevator music with a Mediterranean accent.

Friday all the vibrant colors that that came through when the sounds were new to our ears were once again flowing from the acoustic guitars of the six brothers, cousins and in-laws that front the group, as well as 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.

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To the Kings’ credit, the group does not pander to the American audience: Not a word of English was spoken or sung on stage and such attention-getting novelties as flamenco-ized versions of “My Way” and “Volare” have been abandoned. But the group does pander to a genteel, conservative--and now predictable--aesthetic. Would that this Gipsy caravan snaked through rougher and more exotic lands.


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