Latest news » At Byblos, a legendary touch of old-style blues bringing down the house with the Blind Boys of Alabama

Peter Speetjens
Special to The Daily Star, Beirut

The ancient citadel at Byblos on Sunday night felt like AlcatrazÂ… as silhouettes of heavily armed police officers marched relentlessly up and down the castle walls. The rise in security from previous concerts was to safeguard the presence of the American Grammy award-winning group, the Blind Boys of Alabama, as well as American Ambassador Vincent Battle. The group, present to begin the final concert in this year's Byblos International Festival, like fellow American and grammy winner Solomon Burke (who performed last month at Edde Sands) always requires heavy security as American stars in Lebanon.

Having entered walking hand-to-shoulder resembling a human train, these blind blues singers opened their highly entertaining gig with the classic soul hit Down by the Riverside, before personally welcoming the prime minister by dedicating their next song to him: Nobody's Fault But Mine.

After a wave of audience laughter had died down, this beautiful acappella song made the most of the Blind Boys' considerable range of vocal talentsÂ… they continued Sunday's show with a fine mix of Southern soul, rhythm and blues, gospel, acappella and slightly more upbeat funky tunes.

With songs such as I Believe, Lord Remember Me and Amazing Grace, the name of the Lord was never far away. Though the core members of the Blind Boys of Alabama may be in their 70s, they haven't yet lost their youthful spirit and they still know how to put on a show.

The absolute highlight of Sunday's concert came when lead singer Clarence Fountain was led into the audience, and he kept on repeating to a funky beat: "Do you feel good? Then stand upon your feet and let the whole world know."
And that is exactly what the audience did. While the crowd was standing up and clapping along, the song went on for at least 10 minutes.

Published 1st Jan 2000 »