Tinariwen's third album, Aman Iman, is their heaviest and their best-selling release so far, and this was the first night of a headline UK tour. On stage and on record the Malian band ride out on rebel-rousing electric guitars, weaving hypnotic lines of arresting simplicity and crackling power.
The show begins with dry ice and an unaccompanied female vocal - a perfect illustration of the synthesis of Tinariwen's native culture with showbiz. Ibrahim, the group's most distinctive character, opens with a haunting solo number on an amplified acoustic guitar. And then the full group come on in full Tuareg costume - native costume, yes, but showbiz, too. Ibrahim is in the centre, one of four guitarists, a percussionist at the front and the three chorus singers and hand percussionists to one side.
They launch into one of many songs from the new album spread over a rich and exhilarating 20-song set. "Aldhechen Manin" is driven by an incessant droning bass and an exciting pulse, all the lines in the music turning inward. There are echoes of Sixties garage rock, monochordal trance and raw early electric American blues, all mixed in with native songs and chants. …