Review: Mdou Moctar Jams Out at Thalia Hall

I’m always on the hunt for fresh and unique sounding music and upon my first listen to the Tuareg native rock band; Mdou Moctar, last year I was instantly drawn to their distinctive sound. I caught their set at last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival and the vast amount of energy I saw the band bring to the stage and exude out to the crowd was something I had not seen in a while. Their noteworthy musical style stems from a genre known as desert blues or desert rock that originated from the Saharan region of Africa. I’m a fan of most types of rock and a newer fan to this genre but all I can say is that desert rock goes absolutely hard and is sure to get any crowd rowdy with its rejuvenating and vibrant guitar melodies.

Mahamadou Souleymane, better known on stage (along with his band) as Mdou Moctar, came out to Chicago for two sold out evenings in support of their latest record release, Funeral for Justice. First they hit the Empty Bottle on Monday and followed that with the always charming Thalia Hall on Tuesday.This psychedelic twist on desert rock is absolutely killer and makes for an intriguing blend of genres that works rather too perfectly and has defined Mdou Moctar’s signature sound.

Mdou Moctar made their way on the stage as their eager fans cheered for the buoyant set that was to follow. The stage set was simple; a massive banner with their latest album’s cover on it highlighter by aesthetically pleasing bright orange amps towering in the background of the stage. The band consists of four incredibler musicians; Mahamadou on guitar and lead vocals, Ahmoudou Madassane on guitar and back-up vocals, Michael Coltun on bass guitar and backing vocals, and last but not least Souleymane Ibrahim on drums and backing vocals. The quartet really complimented each other well on stage as they each played a vital role with producing their unique music.

Mdou Moctar let the music take the lead that evening at Thalia Hall; it entranced myself and the rest of the room as they commenced the night with the self-titled track “Funeral for Justice.” That Tuesday night could’ve been easily mistaken for a Saturday evening as the energy was brimming in the room; it was jam session after jam session and the crowd was so in tune with the performance that there was more dancing than phones in the air. They then performed their vibrant track “Chismiten” which is definitely a favorite of mine. The band brought a generous sliver of their special and defined music that makes me extremely content that this up and coming band is getting the recognition that they deserve.

Selling out Thalia Hall in my opinion is a huge milestone for any artist and this is the second time they accomplished this feat after their fantastic set in 2022. Thalia Hall is the perfect median between tiny clubs and larger theaters, so to see Mdou Moctar climbing the popularity ladder is reassuring that their music has made an impact in recent years! Moctar played an excellent show that left Thalia Hall buzzing with high spirits.

All photos by Andrew Lagunas

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Andrew Lagunas

Andrew Lagunas is a freelance photographer from Naperville who specializes in portraiture and concert photography. He has an Associate in Arts degree from College of DuPage and is always looking for new creative outlets.