REVIEW: Banda Magda at University of Richmond, Friday, March 8

"They don’t have to see me. They just have to hear me" -- lead singer Magda Giannikou



As impressive as Banda Magda’s global magpie approach is on record, it gives only a faint impression of the room-filling charm of their live performances.

Leader Magda Giannikou is a compact, ebullient bundle of creative energy. She sings with lovely emotional clarity in multiple languages, plays impressive accordion, dances barefoot across the stage, and off it, to elicit a chorus of individualistic birdsong from the audience.

A spilled water bottle becomes a chance to do the twist while wiping it up with a wad of paper towels under her feet. She dedicates a song to an audience member who requested it in her pre-meeting interview and ends the song with a percussion solo on the squeaky pig toys her drummer calls his “porkestra.”

The multi-continental band, all friends from her graduate studies at Berklee College of Music, matched her in virtuosity, joy and imagination. Each was given ample opportunity to shine, with Giannikou beaming from the sidelines, or, during a bass solo, from the floor.

When she left the stage for her foray into the audience, the house lights started to brighten. “Turn them off,” Giannikou called out. “Turn off the stage lights too. They don’t have to see me. They just have to hear me.”

Based on Friday’s performance, if you get the chance, you do have to see her.