Mariam and Amadou


Amadou & Mariam are world-music stars.

That’s been the case since world-music giant Manu Chao produced their 2004 album, “Dimance a Bamako.” Amadou & Mariam have since performed at the Coachella and Glastonbury festivals, opened for U2 and the Scissor Sisters, and recorded their latest album with such hip all-star guests as Santigold and members of TV on the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

No wonder Amadou & Mariam’s Twin Cities debut Tuesday at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis had been sold out for a long time. The blind husband-and-wife duo from Mali did not disappoint. It was a 95-minute treat.

First of all, the pair was backed by four musicians who were road-tested tight. Secondly, Amadou, 57, is a strong vocalist and a strikingly versatile electric guitarist. Mariam’s vocals were sometimes smothered by the band but her spirit was undeniable. At the end of songs, the 54-year-old singer would be the biggest cheerleader, declaring a droll “yeah” and a “thank you very much.”

The lyrics were mostly in French (it’s not only Mali’s official language but the couple has lived in Paris since the mid-1990s). But you didn’t need a translator to appreciate the music. This band liked to groove, mixing elements of African music with blues, rock, jazz and island music.

While no one would put Amadou in the same league as the late, great Malian guitar hero Ali Farke Toure, he was a tasty, crowd-pleasing guitarist. Every once in a while, he’d get a little flashy, throwing in some guitar-hero body language. He even sounded Claptonesque on “Sebekke,” the night’s final number.

The sweet and playful rapport between Amadou and Mariam was heartwarming. During “Cherie/Mon Amour Ma,” she kept flirting with him, by rubbing his shaven head and kissing his shoulder. Their smiles and friendliness lit up the Cedar throughout the evening.

Five of Tuesday's selections came from this year's "Folila," which has its cross-cultural rewards but lacks the satisfying purity of Amadou & Mariam's other recordings available in the United States. Without the big-name guests at the Cedar, the new material connected without the fuss heard on the recordings.

Highlights of the concert included the hip-swaying “Beaux Dimanche”; "Sebekke" with its festive party groove; the bright, explosive and eventually hard-jamming “Masiteladi,” and the spirited and spikey “Kobena” with just a hint of jazzy guitar and a cool call-and-response exchange between the hand drummer and Amadou.

Here is the set list from the Cedar:
Mogo/ Batoma/ Oh Amadou/ Wari/ Africa Mon Afrique/ La Bandela/ Masiteladi/ Wily Kataso/ Kobena/ Dogon/ La Realite/ C’est Pas Facile/ Beaux Dimanche ENCORE Cherie > Mon Amour Ma/ Sebekke