by Stefan Armbruster BBC News Online
Rachid Taha has been described as the "rai rebel" for his unorthodox fusion of the North African blues and Western (mainly rock) music.
At the Royal Festival Hall on Monday night, he strode on stage, persona in tact.
Like a latter day Joe Strummer, both in looks and sometimes sound, Taha and his six-piece band ripped through a collection of hits from the last ten years.
Rai is rock, rock is rai," Taha chanted, but the audience needed little convincing.
Most of the near capacity hall was on its feet within a few bars of his appearance on stage.
Songs from his 1998 Diwan album - like Ya Rayah and Ida - and his latest Made in Median, hit the right nerve as the crowd crushed down to the stage in the usually sombre Festival Hall.
Music or war?
Taha is not the first to fuse North Africa's traditional music with outside influences, but is one of the few to marry them with as much energy.
He has also never been shy about dropping social commentary into his music.
"What do you want? War in Iraq or more music?" he asked the crowd.
He did not need to wait for an answer, launching into a song titled "Come, come".
Even though the majority of the audience might have been oblivious to the lyrics, sung in French and Algerian, the beat needed no translation.
Taha's band builds up songs with layers of traditional and modern instruments over heavy grooves, be they rooted in Bo Diddley, Motorhead or house music.
Born in 1958 in Oran, Algeria, Taha grew up in France in the poverty-stricken, working-class immigrant community around Lyon.
Music offered an escape from the desperation of immigrant life and as a club DJ he mixed Arabic, Latin, and funk styles, much like his music today.
In the mid-80s he formed punk band Carte de Sejour, or Green Card, and made a splash with an acerbic version of the patriotic "Douce France."
His punk days remain a heavily influence on his sound and he still plays songs from his club-oriented Ole Ole album of 1996, but the heavy beats are now infused with raw guitar chords.
After an hour and half, Taha was in full stride and looked like he was ready to go on for hours, but it was time to wrap up.
As a parting shot he teased the venue management about the early finish.
Waving to the crowd he apologised in broken English: "I must be in the wrong gaff."