REVIEW: Mdou Moctar, Richard Dawson @ The Cumberland Arms (19.11.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Richard Dawson is, to most people, a highly respected singer-songwriter, whose records have been praised by The Wire and Stewart Lee and whose remarkable live performances have brought international attention. According to the man himself tonight though, he is a man singing like “a dog farting in an abattoir out of fear” and highly concerned whether his new coat makes him look like a hipster or not. Flatulent pets aside, the crowd is on board for the duration, his set here including an opening quartet of Mike Waterson covers and a suitably fiery performance of his new calling card, The Vile Stuff.

Having come to greater worldwide prominence after his starring role in the Prince-aping film Rain The Color Blue With A Little Red In It, Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar presents a stoic presence on the stage at The Cumberland Arms, but alongside his bandmates he quickly whips up a storm. If the phrase ‘guitar heroics’ can sometimes conjure up unwelcome images of endless hair metal showboating or of technicality above any aesthetic merit, Moctar’s playing is inquisitive, questioning and open-ended. With his band locking into fierce two-chord grooves, his playing takes on a grand narrative function, expanding the horizons and driving forward the shuffling, hypnotic repetitions of his drummer and rhythm guitarist. It doesn’t take long for the whole of the upstairs room to be dancing, and little wonder – this is addictive, sensual stuff that understands that the soul is best accessed through the body, that the heart rules over the head.

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