Songhoy Blues @ Òran Mór, Glasgow, 3 Dec
The Malian desert punk quartet bring boundless energy and bags of groove to an unexpectedly damp night in Glasgow
In classic Simpsons episode The Otto Show, Spinal Tap turn up to play a gig at Springfield’s ice hockey stadium and find the stage covered in water. “This is supposed to be a rock concert,” states Tap guitarist David St. Hubbins, “not the bleeding… splish-splash show.”
We mention this because for a moment it looks like tonight's show might meet the same fate, with water pouring through the roof as stage time nears. It's a further bit of bad luck for a band formed after fleeing their native Mali, a group who'll make reference to their early career travel issues and the dual scourges of anti-refugee racism and terrorism later on. In the end, plumbers are called, reassurances proffered, and we get off comparatively lightly with a 40-minute delay that leaves a weary and pretty toasty crowd for the headliners to work with.
Luckily, Songhoy frontman Aliou Touré brings the crowd on board right away with some of the most energetic dance moves we’ve seen in a while. He jerks around like a giant marionette puppet, he moonwalks while holding his hat à la Jacko, and at all times he wears a huge, beaming, troublemaker’s grin. Laying down ripping guitar solos is hard enough, so spare a thought for guitarist Garba Touré who visibly corpses on a number of occasions at his vocalist’s antics.
That's the Songhoy Blues formula – an endlessly energetic frontman, sparkling guitar riffs inspired by blues and funk guitarists from Western and African traditions, and a whip-tight rhythm section to keep everything bobbing along nicely. As for the setlist, its slight imbalances actually work given the context – we begin with a string of longer, more languid jams to help bring a restless crowd back on side before kicking things into a higher gear around the halfway point. Mali Nord, from the band's second LP Résistance, begins an impressive run of uptempo bangers punctuated with repeated calls to work together against, well, everything that's wrong with the world.
Résistance's hugely danceable opening tracks Bamako and Voter are joined by a raucous version of Irganda from their Music in Exile debut, and their breakthrough tracks Al Hassidi Terei and Soubour bring the evening to a close, but not before Aliou makes a brave offer. "When we come back, we'll play a three-hour set," the frontman beams – now that's an evening that will be well worth waiting around for.