The magic of Senegal's versatile Baaba Maal was crackling all over the place Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl. Maal has been a dynamic performer for more than a decade, and his appearances are always memorable occasions.
But Sunday's concert, titled "African Funk," was so filled with visual color and visceral, body-moving rhythms that one wished the entire evening had been devoted to this consummate artist.
That's not quite the way it happened, however. Ex-Centric Sound System, with its looped, sequenced tracks, functions best in the enveloping environment of a dance club. In the openness of the Bowl, the musical thinness of the presentation was simply too apparent.
Benin's Angelique Kidjo, like Maal, has the capacity to generate intense musical voltage, but she was slow in building up a charge. Her set had a distinctly Brazilian quality, with new numbers such as "Bahia" forecasting the material on her next album. But it wasn't until her closing numbers that Kidjo's surprising coolness dissipated, as she brought the crowd to its feet for a sparkling climax to her set.