West Hollywood, California
July 13, 2011
The touring lineup of Tinariwen is ever-shifting. This night at the small and intimate Troubadour (holding around 200) , they were a five-piece with leader/vocalist/guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, singer/acoustic guitarist Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni, bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad, and another rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist.
The majority of the music performed was taken from the upcoming album Tassili due out August 30th. The opening focus was on Alhabid singing (he took most of the lead vocals on the first half of the show) and guitar playing. Known for his fiery and original electric guitar work, he proved equally adept on acoustic. Whereas in earlier shows they tended to drift off into extended groove based jams, now the music is much more focused.
After a slow and moody opening two songs, the band kicked it into gear, and showed that acoustic guitars or not, they still had a bold, powerful sound with the call and response vocals they’re known for. After 30 minutes, Alhabib left the stage, letting Alhousseyni, a very charismatic figure in his own right, take the spotlight. He’s a fine acoustic guitarist and a compelling vocalist and songwriter as well. On his fourth number, Alhabib rejoined the band and added his vocals to the mix. (For some reason, the two rarely play guitar at the same time.) The rest of the band then left Alhabib to do one solo piece before rejoining him to finish off the night. It was at this time, an hour into the set, that Alhabib finally strapped on the electric guitar for the last two songs, finishing with perhaps their best known number, “Amassakoul’n’Tenere.” They were quickly called back on stage for another acoustic number before finishing with “Imazeghen n Adagh”.
This show was one of a set of five west coast club dates that were to be bookend by appearances at the Winnipeg and Vancouver Folk Festivals. Unfortunately, due to difficulties with the Canadian government, both festival appearances had to be cancelled because the groups’ application for entry visas were denied, not once, but twice. Despite the fact the band had toured Canada a number of times since 2004, and had played for the opening celebration of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, they were turned down on short notice, depriving them of the two highest profile (and paying) shows of the tour. It’s sad, because Tinariwen yet again subtlety shifted the focus of their music, this time turning toward an acoustic sound.
—Jim Lee, Simi Valley, CA
Promo for the new record:
“Tenere Taqhim Tossam” from the new album: