THE Henley Festival’s organisers needn’t have bothered putting out chairs when the Gipsy Kings headlined on Saturday.
Throughout most of the show people were dancing in the aisles, the stands and even on the grass beyond the main lawn.
The band opened with their 1995 single A Ti A Ti then performed the fast instrumental Rumba Tech, in which each of the guitarists took turns to play solos.
It took a while for the crowd to warm up, as others were still making their way to their seats during the first three numbers.
However, they quickly loosened up and were on their feet for the rest of the performance.
Co-founder and lead singer Nicolas Reyes was on fine form throughout, his husky tenor still loud and clear after more than 35 years of touring.
The rest of the band, including his brothers Canute, Andre and Patchai, also contributed vocals and provided a watertight backing with fluid, complex guitar lines.
Midway through the performance, they slowed the pace down for a trio of ballads including 1988’s Un Amor.
Following which they swiftly lurched back into top gear — and the crowd were determined to make the most of it.
From young women in cocktail dresses and high heels to greying gents in evening suits, everyone cast aside their inhibitions and embraced the party spirit.
As guests danced wildly in front of the floating stage, people on passing boats donned hats and fake moustaches while shaking their torches like maracas.
The band got the biggest cheers when they played their 1987 signature hit Bamboléo at the end of the night.
The audience threw their arms up and sang along to the one-word chorus but, perhaps unsurprisingly, were somewhat rustier on the Spanish verses.
The group left the stage but returned seconds later amid loud foot-stomping and chants for more.
Their two-song encore finished with their famous cover of Domenico Modugno’s Volare, again prompting vociferous accompaniment that echoed down the Thames.
Reyes then spoke for the first and only time to thank the crowd in French before leaving.
It was the Gipsy Kings’ second visit to Henley since 2008 and I’m sure a third would be warmly welcomed.
Review: James Burton