Live at The Glee Club
Wednesday 8 March
The chairs have been removed from the main room at The Glee Club for tonight's show. Music events at the venue are usually sit-down affairs where no one gets up to dance. All of this has changed tonight.
Tinariwen's desert blues needs to be heard and most importantly, felt by audiences gathered together whilst either standing, swaying or even, in this close space, dancing together.
When the band assemble on stage, dressed in traditional robes and turbans, they are so unassuming and lacking in any rock and roll pomp, you feel that that you are observing an intimate get together, not just another date on their busy European and American tour.
Tinariwen's show opens with a brief snatch of Tinde before easing into the slow burning Nizzagh Ijbal from this year's 'Elwan' album. Alhassane Ag Tohami, one of the oldest members of the band, moves to the right of the stage where he dances for most of the show, his face full of joy, holding his arms out, beckoning the crowd. Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni takes lead vocals on the opening songs, but it's the appearance of founder member Ibrahim Ag Alhabib that brings the first big cheer from the audience.
It is Ibrahim who formed Tinariwen. It is his distinctively raw bluesy guitar and ragged vocals that evoke the love of their homeland, the sadness at the atrocities that have been inflicted on the native Tuareg people and the ideals that hold the band together.
Songs like Tiwayyen are at the heart of what makes Tinariwen so enthralling, cyclical guitar grooves combine with Ibrahim's weary vocals to create and deeply moving experience. Watching Ibrahim, you can see the burdens of his life written into the lines on his face, suggesting that he is a lot older than his 57 years.
There are moments of sheer delight when Abdallah Ag Alhousseyeni takes lead vocal and acoustic guitar for the giddying Assawt. It's the song that gets most of the audience dancing. The main set ends with an boisterously funky version of Cler Achel from their 2007 breakthrough album ‘Aman Iman’, reminding many of those present of the first time they experienced this exceptional band. The encore concludes with an exhilarating rendition of Chaghaybou, full of delirious call and response vocals and sparkling guitar motifs. A glorious climax to show that subtly connected with the audience, sharing with them their stories in their extraordinary way.
Scratchy Photography in difficult conditions: Jason Lewis
Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.
March sees a greatly expanded reissue of Elliott Smith's most critically acclaimed album Either/Or