As the show rolled on near its end, even the firm as ground classics "Leavin' Trunk" and "She Caught The Katy" couldn't have got the roof any higher. These potential clinchers were left unheard this time.

On his encore Taj jumped off the stage into the audience and played his banjo among the merry festival people. After show of one hour and forty minutes, the audience and the Taj Mahal Trio walked on into the Helsinki night with an obvious delightfulness.

When the leader of the trio is a multi-instrumentalist, the small band of three men doesn't easily crash into its restrictions. Taj played the most part of his show with a quite deep-bodied semi-acoustic guitar, the sound of which got modified into the tones and spirit of each song - from the commanding electric blues to the tingly jingling African grooves.

Taj Mahal is known for his docile and toneful singing, but the natural reasons of a 65-year old singer have their toll. The vocal sound was heavily reverbrated, and on "Spooky Blues" there were even some horror movie-type effect trickery gags used.

Bill Rich appeared to be a versatile bass player on a live situation, his playing combined sturdiness and freeful relaxment. Kester Smith played the drums with an easy-going strength. It brought an open breathiness to the trio's sound.

Finland has seen very many good blues-concerts this past year. The occasional flirting with the audience and the slightly populistic sing-alongs were a small minor on Taj Mahal's Helsinki Festival concert. The event is among the true highlights of the year's concerts in Finland.

Review by Pasi Tuominen
Translated from Finnish by Sameli Rajala

Taj Mahal Trio. Helsinki Festival, 22 August 2007

Taj Mahal (vocals, guitar, keyboards, banjo), Bill Rich (bass), Kester Smith (drums)

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Taj Mahal Got the Tent Packed

23 August 2007

The Helsinki concert of the joyous Taj was a surprisingly blues-oriented treat. Even the rhythm section didn't get left unnoticed on this entertaining evening at the Festival Tent.

Taj Mahal, who has also been making a career as a world musician, treated the Finnish folk with a slight surprise and served a blues-filled set for the packed-up "Huvila" Festival Tent at The Helsinki Festival. Taj has lately been working with African musicians, to mention a few of his eclectic palette of artistry, but at the Huvila Tent his main focus was the classic blues material of the likes of Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy Williamson.

The obviously delighted Taj, bass player
Bill Rich and the drum man Kester Smith sparked and started the show with three hefty blues numbers. The appetizing starters were topped with a great take on Jimmy Reed's "Baby What's Wrong" that Taj explained was the very first song he learned to play on guitar.
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After the third song the audience got hopped up on dancing and filled the front of the stage. "I'd heard you people here need some time to get warmed up", Taj chatted warmly as he noticed the hearsays got proven right.

The party didn't stop when the star of the evening hunched over to the keyboards for a couple of songs. Sonny Boy Williamson II's classic "Checking Up On My Baby", that has been a mainstay for Taj from his first album on, was sturdy as it gets. The uplifting blues starters of the set were six songs and about 40 minutes.

The 2005 album "Mkutano", made with African musicians, is clearly an important one for Taj. Taj Mahal and his band have been performing "Zanzibar", the key track of the album, regularly on gigs as the bassman Rich and the drummer Kester Smith were also aboard on the "Mkutano" album. On many concerts the song has reached lenghty performances of over 10 minutes. It brought a welcome rhythm change to the set at the Huvila Tent but, however, the only true world-music number of the evening didn't get a really enthusiastic reception. So the song stayed within reasonable length on this occasion.

The festive audience was quickly taken back to the basic stuff. The jookbox tube snake of songs "Fishing Blues", "Queen Bee", "Corinna" and "Going up to the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue" followed up on one another. The swinging 'n' swaying electric piano sound stamp of the 1968 studio version was now put on into new and different good use with a more straightforward bass grooves by Bill Rich. The smooth and delicate "Queen Bee" has now a ruff Žn tumble ending.
A stimulatingly fuelled-up "Uh Huh Blues" was one of the highlights of the set. On this song Taj strengthed out the most intense guitar solo of the evening, but the main star bright on this number was the bass player Bill Rich, whose brilliant solo the audience rewarded with a juiced rich applause.

"The Blues Is Allright!" was clearly the motto on this evening - and appropriately the last song on Taj Mahal's set. Taj commanded the audience to stand up and sway their hands in the air to the beat and he didn't have to request this twice.