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Live Review: Mdou Moctar @ 9:30 Club — 6/27/24

Mdou Moctar is a Tuareg musician from Niger. His story is as amazing as it is improbable. And it recently led him and his band to Washington DC’s 9:30 Club.

Mdou and his band are on tour supporting Funeral For Justice, the guitarist’s most recent album (published in May via Matador Records).

Watch the official music video for “Chismiten” by Mdou Moctar on YouTube:

I had high hopes for this 9:30 Club show on June 27, and Mdou and the band went above and beyond. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I really enjoy Mdou’s albums, and I have seen the sessions from KEXP and other in-studio performances. But seeing a band in person is an entirely different experience.

The show opened with a wild ensemble from Seattle called JRCG. They were loud and powerful. The band is centered around drummer Justin R. Cruz Gallego. Makes sense. So the songs are very percussive. And loud. Have I mentioned that yet? They play so hard that you can literally feel the music in your chest. They’re like the cast of The Goonies followed The Dead around for a few decades but decided to start a band after hearing Swans.

Mdou Moctar entered the stage to ambient noise, cloaked in a dark blue light, along with the rest of his band: Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Mickey Coltun on bass, and Souleymane Ibrahim on drums. From the first note, you can tell this show is going to be a little different.

Stream Funeral for Justice by Mdou Moctar on Spotify:

Mdou Moctar

Watching Mdou play must be like watching Hendrix in his early years. He’s a lefty, playing a Fender Strat. He has complete control of the instrument and seems to play the most complex music with little to no effort; occasionally bringing to mind Hendrix’s idea of the motionless virtuoso. But he does move! And he smiles. A lot! Mdou is obviously having a great time touring for his latest album, Funeral For Justice.

Mdou Moctar

The songs tend to be long jams when played live. When the band stretches out, they sound like they’ve arrived from another planet. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix cut his teeth in Western Africa instead of the Chitlin Circuit. That’s the starting point. And the rest of the band is just as tight as Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding ever were.

Mdou Moctar

During the second song of the evening, a gentleman entered stage right. I had seen him earlier in the evening. He walked past me to go backstage. Suddenly he’s ON stage, throwing dollar bills at Mdou, laughing, smiling, and pointing at him. And to be honest, I’m not sure what happened to all those dollar bills because soon after, Mdou sat on the edge of the stage and kept playing.

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Pretty soon Mdou hopped off the stage into the photo pit and up onto the barrier. He stood on the little platforms and played, pressed right up against the crowd. He proceeded to slowly work his way across the entire width of the barrier, taking photos with the front row, all while shredding some of the wildest guitar lines I’ve heard in a while.

Mdou Moctar
Mdou Moctar

Once Mdou made it back to the stage (after giving his stage crew fits, trying to keep his guitar cables from taking out mic stands and photographers, alike), he thanked everyone for coming out to see the show. They then brought out another percussionist to play the djembe. You might think that this would signify a slower, quieter song. But you’d be wrong.

Mdou Moctar

The band didn’t play a lot of songs and they didn’t play for very long. Mdou’s set was about an hour and fifteen minutes. But I would absolutely go see them again. They packed a lot into that short set. And the audience ate up every note. It’s a great show when the crowd gets into the music and the musicians feed off their energy. That was the case with Mdou Moctar at the 9:30 Club and I can not wait to see them again!

Mdou Moctar

Setlist

  • Funeral For Justice
  • Chismiten
  • Takoba
  • Sousoume Tamacheq
  • Modern Slaves
  • Tchinta
  • Imouhar
  • Tarhatezed
  • Afrique Victime

Here are some more photos of Mdou Moctar performing at 9:30 Club on June 27, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Marc Shea.

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