AS THE son of late Malian guitar legend Ali Farka Touré, Vieux Farka Touré has a landmark legacy to live up to, and a mighty big shadow to step out from under.
He’s done both, firstly by attaining a truly dazzling mastery of his own electric six-string, then by drawing on the vibrant, cosmopolitan engagement with Malian tradition that characterised his father’s music, to extend the process into wider contemporary realms, particularly via the blues – both US and desert-style – and hard-hitting rock.
The name of his third studio album, last year’s The Secret, in fact refers – he has said – to “the secret of the blues”, namely the multilayered, multigenerational kinship between the genre’s African and American traditions.
Putting his own distinctive spin on the classic rock power trio, forcefully flanked by Valery Assouan on bass and Tim R Keeper on drums, Touré paraded a breathtaking array of majestic, heavily improvised soundscapes, awash with luxuriant, squealing, squiggly solos and jabbing, sharp-angled riffs.
His prevailing sound had an implacably virile heft, roaming panoramically along hypnotic, Tinariwen-style grooves, alternately exploding into squalls of blurry-fingered pyrotechnics and brooding or smouldering with deliciously dark intensity.
The mood was deftly varied, though, by the occasional shimmery lyrical ballad showing his softer side – his vocals shifting here towards the soulfully impassioned, from their stern understated authority elsewhere – and by the brilliantly sunny nod to his traditional roots, in a kind of Malian rockabilly number, insanely fast yet astoundingly precise, with which he raced headlong to the end of his set.