The desert blues band close Meltdown Festival 2019
Al Mills
12:42 14th August 2019

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It was the closing night of Nile Rodgers Meltdown Festival and inside London’s Southbank Centre Songhoy Blues (a homage to their Malian, Songhoy heritage) are gearing up like discharged electricity sparking outward-looking rebellion inside a liberated six-stringed dimension. 

A band of four parts put together to create a sharply suited whole and whose very existence bares enough lived-in history to write an album with - which is exactly what they did with 2015’s Music In Exile and then again in 2017 with Resistance - let’s just say we should all be grateful that The Royal Festival Hall is Grade 1 listed as very quickly the energy within the room was searing.  

From their empowered get-go the group seamlessly soared above any expectations of how rock stars who’d just had Nile Rodgers introduce their set, with the same delight as a child who’s just received four scoops of ice-cream, might behave. Ego-less and fully-fledged charming, tonight, for all its anticipation was ultimately just as much an act of pleasure for the band as it was for those in attendance. Ever the modelled frontman, Aliou Touré danced laps of rhythmically winged joy between his fellow bandmates only ever pausing to smile songs of spanned genre and the occasional breath. One of the tightest units of demonstrated spur imaginable, Songhoy Blues are the immediate kings of their own crafted world.  

But then, just as you think things couldn’t get more animated, there’s that guitar. Whilst Hendrix comparisons might not be unjust it would be fair to say that Garba Touré’s playing was nothing short of uniquely improvised and breath-snatching. You could almost hear the cornered cracks of every smile break out within the 2,900-cap room as he spiritedly rallied plucked gold-dust from the strings of his Supreme stickered guitar. 

As the night drew to its reluctant end only one action remained. A fulfilment of a promise made previously in the set, the ‘best dancing’ audience members were invited onto the stage and boy did they live up to their participation agreements. A rainbow-ed stage spanning all age, race and gender- this was the embracing ending necessary for such a delighted event. 

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Photo: Victor Frankowski