July 8, 2024

Mdou Moctar played Union Pool

Mdou Moctar made a surprise appearance at Brooklyn's Union Pool for two intimate, acoustic-ish sets on Sunday night.

The electric psych-rock outfit Mdou Moctar recently played two sold-out shows in New York in support of their excellent new album Funeral for Justice, one at Manhattan's famed Bowery Ballroom and another in Williamsburg at Warsaw. Now, after a few gigs in the UK, including the iconic Glastonbury Festival, the quartet has made their way back to the states and on Sunday night gave two surprise shows for Brooklyn's intimate Union Pool. Billed as "unplugged" sets, the shows on Sunday were about as acoustic as Nirvana's epic performance on the MTV show of the same name, but like that performance, it wasn't necessarily about how much the group steered clear of the power of their amps, rather how much the music was able to connect in a way that was so different than how we've become accustomed to hearing these songs. The bass and rhythm guitar were full on electric instruments, the drums a lot more reserved, however, with what seemed like just bongos and a bass drum, and a plugged in acoustic guitar by the frontman himself which still allowed for the delicate renditions to shine through with stunning power. A typical Mdou Moctar show is flowing with energy as blazing guitar solos act as agents of chaos in their songs, their extremes reaching dazzling heights of dexterity and brilliant talents. The crowd usually responds by feeding of this energy to create rambunctious moments of jostling and dancing. In this new setting, we were treated to Mellow Moctar, a much more subdued experience, but one that still captured the full attention of the crowd. In fact, there were times when I sensed that the crowd felt a little too comfortable and relaxed as many carried on conversations at rude volumes while others shouted out to the band in ways that fractured the moment. Aside from the poor behaviors of those in attendance, it was still easy to fall under the spell of the band's magical pull, the rhythms stretching out to grab hold and twist the audience through the serpentine like grooves the band does so well. Visiting these songs in new versions also forced me to hear things that don't usually stand out, or perhaps did for the first time given the settings. To be able to experience these songs in such a calm and inviting manner was such a contrast from their previous shows and even how they come across on record, so it was special to be able to witness this other version of the band. Regardless if they're shredding with their amps turned up to eleven or if they strip things down to their more basic elements, the band remain top-notch in form and transfixing from the moment they take the stage.

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