The Gipsy Kings at Wolf Trap by Yvonne French

The crowd sat back and exhaled a soft “ahhh” at the opening notes of “Un Amor,” or “One Love” at the Gipsy Kings concert Thursday night at Wolf Trap.

Gipsy Kings. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.
Gipsy Kings. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

To see the lead vocalist Nicolas Reyes is to love him and to hear his plaintive voice rise to a resigned wail is to love to be sad, especially on the popular ballad that goes “One love /I lived one love/Crying and it told me/God’s words/Crying for you /It’s with love.”

The 25-year-old French band features seven guitarists, a bass player, a conga player, a drummer, and a synthesizer/keyboardist. Among the hits that they sang were “Bamboleo,” which is Spanish for ‘swaying,’ and “Djoba Djobi.”

Lead guitarist Tonino Baliardo played so fast with five fingers that he sounded like a saxophonist playing with ten. His electric guitar was hollow like an acoustic guitar and about half as deep. He played mostly high sounds from low on the neck, eking out crisp individual notes. Then he cradled the instrument as if raising a gun almost to his shoulder and swung it back and forth to make it thrum with sonorous vibrations.The way he handled it made it look like it was a toy.

Flamenco artist Jose Reyes started the band “Los Reyes” (The Kings) with his sons in the 1970s. After the elder Reyes’s death, his children added their cousins, the Baliardos, to the group, and they changed their names to the Gipsy Kings. The band is composed of Reyes and Baliardo as well as Pablo, François “Canut,” Patchai, and André Reyes on backup vocals and guitar, and Diego and Paco Baliardo on guitar.

Their music is described as pop nuevo flamenco, having “impassioned vocals and driving guitars of flamenco, with a healthy dash of rumba, creat[ing] a highly accessible and sellable product,” according to an article about world music, Michal Shapiro Explores the Music of the Roma.

The concert was filled with sentimental Latino-sounding songs and rocking Middle Eastern eighth notes punctuated with North African conga drumming accompanied by all kinds of rhythm instruments, including a sharp-sounding whistle and a three-tiered tambourine. Driving rock-style drums and a stick bass anchored the two sets and one encore.

By the end of the show, the audience was on its feet clapping hands and clinking metallic objects together. It was a cyclone of sound that swirled like the skirt of a flamenco dancer. They’ve been known to have a dancer onstage during shows and maybe they will do so next time—as long as it doesn’t distract from this talented family of guitar virtuosos.

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, including one intermission.

The Gipsy Kings played on August 8, 2013 for one night only at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap —1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and information, check their calendar of events.



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