The last couple of months I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over from friends far and wide: Mdou Moctar stole the show. I’ve heard it so often that it’s become something of a legend: opening sets so astounding good that it’s been the clear highlight of every stage they play on. So when they came to Thalia Hall I knew I had to be there to experience them. Mdou Moctar did not disappoint as they crafted a fantastic show from top to bottom.
Uranium Club opened the night with one of the louder performances I’ve had the chance to experience at Thalia Hall. It wasn’t the absolute loudest (that honor goes to Swans), but their unbridled sound definitely left an impression. It was pure punk punches coming from the trio with a surprisingly long opening set. It gave the crowd a good chance to groove with band’s incredibly fast guitars mixed with unrelenting drums. It was an energizing set and hard not to find your self banging your head long to their raw and fun tracks.
As Mahamadou Souleymane emerged from the shadows, the atmosphere instantly changed. The crowd’s energy seemed to be completely zeroed in on Souleymane as he introduced the show with a powerful yet meditative performance. He stood on stage alone with just his guitar in hand, setting the tone for the night before the rest of the band joined him. Ahmoudou Madassane, Michael Coltun, and Souleymane Ibrahim came out and began an epic journey into Mdou Moctar’s musical world.
Mdou Moctar blends modern psychedelic rock with hefty doses of North and West African sounds. The marrying of the styles results in this otherworldly experience that is underlined by the band’s onstage presence. The band have this incredible chemistry, playing off each other wonderfully and balancing each other when need be. While the most of the band remains somewhat stoic and focused on their performance, Souleymane’s front-man status is undeniable. He is playing to the crowd with near unrestrained energy, often finding himself past the stage and atop the edge of the crowd, shredding directly into the mesmerized faces.
Mdou Moctar’s tracks are either heavily instrumental or sung in the Tamasheq language, lending their set to feel like one long track. Especially since beyond a few thanks yous throughout the night, the music was essentially non-stop. It really fed into the nature of their music. Obviously you can look up their setlist as gauge some of what they played, but I think that’s unnecessary with Mdou Moctar. Their songs have transcendent quality that leads to an immersive experience where the band’s flawless performances guide you a rich and satisfying musical trip. The connection between the band and the crowd is palpable. You’re meant to live in that moment as the band doles out these soaring tracks highlighted by impassioned singing.
For the encore, Mdou Moctar truly went above and beyond. They performed a single song, Afrique Victime‘s eponymous track, and let every bit of their talent pour over the captivated crowd. Mahamadou Souleymane inched back to the edge of the stage, onto the center speaker, before jumping over the rail and straight into the crowd, playing his guitar with all the energy he had on stage. Souleymane disappeared from sight, engulfed by cheering fans as he jammed out and surely melted face or too with his impressive skill. The rest of the band remained on stage, backing Souleymane playing perfectly. This was Mdou Moctar at the height of their powers, giving Thalia Hall an amazing end to an amazing show.
All Photos by Julian Ramirez.
You can check out more of Mdou Moctar over at their website!
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