Mary McBride Band gives Americans taste from home in Saudi
The famous artist, who has released four albums with her band and cooperated and toured with numerous musicians, including Blondie, Chubby Checker, Cyndi Lauper and Jerry Lee Lewis, is currently touring the world as a cultural envoy for the US Department of State.
“I can’t tell you how happy we are to be back in Saudi Arabia and, most particularly, how happy we are to be back in Jeddah,” McBride told the animated audience.
She had already been in the Kingdom two years ago and had since then performed in 17 different countries, including Vietnam, Costa Rica, Laos, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
“It feels like a dream to be back in this room,” she added. Performing both some of McBride’s old songs — among others the soundtrack of the Academy-award winning film Brokeback Mountain, “No One’s Gonna Love You Like Me” — as well as songs of her new album “One More Time”, which will come out in the beginning of next year, the Mary McBride band got the entire audience on their feet with their enthusiasm and music.
They played melodious rock and roll, alternating with a couple of tear-dropping love songs and one a-capella song, excellently showing the purity and strength of McBride’s voice, which did not need any instrumental accompaniment to pierce right through the audience’s hearts.
Indeed, wearing a simple outfit of jeans and a shirt with jacket, McBride did not need any garnish to steal the show, and the only surprise took place at the end, when she quickly changed to the Saudi national football team shirt, something that resulted in a loud applause from the Saudi fans.
With their honest, straightforward music and amusing anecdotes in between songs, the band achieved to create an atmosphere of openness and trust among the mixed audience that came from all over the world and included Arabs, Americans, Europeans and Indians.
“Music gives people a common language and it makes people very open,” she commented afterward. “Music is what got me to Saudi Arabia.”
McBride’s choice to perform with a women-only band gave her the opportunity to perform at places she would not have been able to play otherwise.
Apart from the US Consulate in Jeddah, the band performed at several schools, museums, and organized women-only workshops with Saudi artists in Riyadh, Dammam, and Jeddah.
“People who want to play music find a way to play music, wherever they live,” McBride commented on the difficulties Saudi musicians face.
The audience in this part of the world has been fabulous, she said when asked if performing in the Middle East was different from America.
“Of course we like to believe it’s us,” she joked, “but the truth is there is a need for music. It is fun and a way to relax for people.”
Making people forget about their problems is what led McBride to found the Home Tour, which brings musical concerts to the homes of people who otherwise would not have access to live music.
Inspired by author and poet Maya Angelou’s quote “I long […] to be at home wherever I find myself”, the Home Tour travels the US and abroad to places people call home, including long-term health care centers, homeless shelters, orphanages, prisons, and homes for people living with mental and physical disabilities.
In an attempt to exchange music and bring cultures together, the opening act of the evening was Al-Farabi, a Saudi band that plays fusion music on the lyrics of classical Arabic poets. While having played at the US Consulate in Jeddah before, the band — named after one such poet — came with a completely new repertoire of songs they had never performed live before, leaving their fans with high expectations of the near future of this band, which combines rock and roll of the electrical guitar with the traditional Arabic oud in a unique blend of musical styles.
By Selma Roth