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POP MUSIC REVIEW : The Kings: More Than Gypsy Tunes

March 04, 1994|STEVE HOCHMAN

In a better world, everyone leaving the Gipsy Kings concert on Wednesday at the Pantages Theatre would have headed straight to a record store to further explore the wealth of musical styles brought together during the show. Maybe start with the North African Islamic music that's a foundation of the Gypsy band's flamenco-pop and can be heard clearly in singer Nicolas Reyes' raspy keening, or the Brazilian sambas hinted at in the percussive interplay of the Kings' acoustic guitar phalanx (as many as eight guitars at once).

But that wasn't likely, given that the success of the remarkably popular band seems largely based on how it homogenizes the styles rather than explores them. Still, the Kings did a fair share for the cause of world music in the opening portion of the show--the first of four at the Pantages. A casual, intimate approach, with the guitarists backed by effectively subtle keyboard, bass and percussion, underscored the fact that this is truly Gypsy music, in the sense that it's pieced together from generations of nomadic life.

For the remainder of the show, though, the Kings turned up the bass, keyboard and drums and turned down the richness and passion. The music was superficially rousing--the crowd stood and danced throughout--but underneath it was bland and predictable, leaving the musical-cultural adventures of the opening an unfulfilled tease.

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