Mario Reyes in Dubai: Concert Review

Mario Reyes is a bit confusing. He calls himself the “Gipsy Man” but promoters bill him as one of the “Gipsy Kings”. He likens himself as a gipsy, yet he holds a passport, which is French, but his music sounds decidedly Mexican.

With all this confusion, its surprising that his concerts can be so cohesive, including last night’s performance at Radisson Blu in Dubai’s Media City.

The show got off to a rocky start. Feedback plagued Reyes’ first song and likely would have ruined it had it not been for some quick thinking on the part of percussionist Gilberto Moncada. From that point on, Moncada assumed double duty on bongos and soundboard, keeping the rhythm and keeping the pesky feedback at bay.

Once peace reigned, Reyes set out to disturb it. Exploring the sound with some preliminary strums, Reyes built each song at rate faster than the construction of skyscrapers dominating the skyline behind him. As his flamenco carried into the open air, the crowd of forty-somethings began tapping its feet. His enthusiastic suggestions to “baile, baile, baile” were well-received and after no more than several songs, even the bouncers were bouncing.

“Laily Lail” elicited the biggest response from the crowd. The Arabian sounding melody resounded with the distinctly non-Arab concertgoers, inspiring much dancing and chanting of the song’s chorus.

After establishing his mastery on the guitar, Reyes made way for keyboardist, Jean-Vincent Abard. With muscles taut, Abard’s hands pranced over the keys like two frantic spiders, producing a sometimes jazzy, sometimes Spanish sound that worked nicely with Reyes guitar.

In the evening’s best display of fluidity, Reyes conducted his accompaniment via subtle head nods and glances. A simple, well-timed wink delegated an elaborate solo and a quick foot-kick brought the group back together. A setlist was noticeably absent from the stage, leaving the evening’s songs up to whatever happened to be in Reyes head.

As noted, there wasn’t much gipsy in Reyes’ music. His guitar, keyboard, and percussion created an entirely different sound than the accordions, cymbals, and tubas that most often come to mind when one considers gipsy music. However, if gipsy music aims to entertain, then Reyes most certainly is an artist of the genre.

A couple hours into the performance, Reyes’ took a break from the lively music and leaned into the mic to speak a few words. With Spanish rolling off his tongue, most in attendance idly chatted, oblivious to his message until he managed, “All woman sing!” The ensuing song was the evening’s climax. Allowing a turn for the men as well as the ladies, Reyes shouted, “Todos! Todos! Todos!” to which the crowd loudly replied, “Ole!” At this, all confusion was dispelled. Gipsy or not, Reyes came to have fun.

Visit Reyes website at

Listen to “Laily Lail” at

See pictures of the event at

– Review by Tom “Wonderboy” Roth