I can’t believe it’s a week since I saw Rachid Taha at the Meltdown Festival in London (as devotees of this site will know, this is the fifth time I’ve seen him in the UK since July 2004!) and the adrenalin is still coursing round my body, I’m still shaking ~ for me it was the best yet!!
The atmosphere was supercharged, the electricity of his performance rolling off the stage was palpable ~ whatever I say will be inadequate, you had to be there!!!
The legendary Meltdown Festival is one of the rock music highlights of the year in the U.K. and attracts the best in the business. Running for 2 weeks in June it takes place at venues across theSouth Bank, the cultural hub of London. In past years the programme of events has been curated bynotables of the music industry such as David Bowie, Morrisey and John Peel. Patti Smith, musician, poet and cult figure of punk was given the major honor and responsibility of choosing and invitingthe participants for this year’s festival. Rachid is currently attracting the well-deserved respect and attention of many of the great iconsof rock music, particularily from the magical and progressive scene of the 1960s and 70s ~ Robert Plant and Brian Eno, to name two giants of that era ~ and his admiration for the late Joe Strummer, the front man of the 1980s punk band, The Clash, is well-known, so it’s not totallysurprizing that Patti should recognize that there is a rawness, an uniqueness and an honesty in Rachid’s music that would sit well among her choices for the festival.
Rachid headlined the opening night, Friday 17th June; happily there was a gap in his lengthy andextensive tour schedule, and it’s great to see him back in Britain treating us once again to oneof his powerfull, energetic wild man of rock performances ~ he loves it and so do we!! The support band were appropriately Carbon/Silicon, the new band formed by Mick Jones of The Clashand they gave an enthusiastic audience a roaring start to the festival with tracks from their newalbum, Gangs Of England. At the end of their set they’re joined on stage by Patti Smith for the encore, performing the late, great Jimmy Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’.Then...... after the interval Rachid and the band roll onto the stage, straight into the moodyMamachi and we’re off!!! After a bit of reticence (the security guys were a bit off-putting) the audience leave their seats, surge to the front ~ and most of the audience must have been at thefront (by that time security was well outnumbered!!!) ~ dancing, singing, cheering and having aparty ~ because that’s what Rachid’s gigs are, a party!!! He rackets around the stage like a loose cannon, giving us an unstinting and hyperacitive performance, belting through numbers fromTekitoi? ~ Hasbu-Hum, Safi and more, plus well loved titles from his back catalogue (including myall-time favourite, Nokta)~ you know them all!!!! As usual, he engages in animated and goodnatured badinage with the audience and hauls two mouthy guys onto the stage for a lesson in lyricsand pronounciation!! It’s an incredible sight to see the fans going wild about him, grabbing at him, desperate to touch him and shake his hand ~ there’s a forest of mobile phones photographing him!!! The tour band ~ Noel (lead), Idris (bass), Yves (keyboards), Rachid (darbuka player) and Abdel (drums) are all there, but Hakim is not in the line up for this gig and although there is a stand-in, his mandolute playing and voice are missed, let alone his characteristic presence onstage. Patti, playing clarinet in free-form jazz style, and Mick Jones return to the stage to join Rachid in Rock The Casbah ~ what else would it be ~ and pogoing (for our younger readers, this isjumping up and down on the spot, a dance favoured by devotees of punk rock) is compulsary!
I had the great good luck to go to the back stage party and Rachid, the band and entourage (his management, technicians et al) were still on a high, still boyant and with time for everyone ~ the Royal Festival Hall finally threw us out at 1.00am!!! For those of you interested in the sartorial aspects of his appearance he was wearing leather trousers (of course!), black shirt, dark striped tailored jacket and NO hat, but that meant we gota full and unrestrained view of all that black, flopping, twisty hair!!!It’s obvious Rachid’s British fan base is growing in leaps and bounds and it’s time someone told British venues that one and a half hours of Rachid Taha ain’t enough ~ not even with encores.
Come again M. Taha, we enjoy having you ~ you’re our kind of rocker!!!
Yvonne Mitton (all rights reserved)
Note: Posts with pics of this concert in this blog by jumping to here and here!