Thursday, September 21, 2023

Bombino, Crystal Ballroom at Somervile Theater, Somerville, MA 9/19/23

I first stumbled on Bombino at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival. If I remember correctly, I had carved out that time to eat as I wasn't familiar with any of the artists playing that timeslot. Instead of eating, I was sucked into Bombino's performance and vowed to see him again as soon as I could. Unfortunately, it took ten years, but it was worth the wait.

Playing with no opener, Bombino took the stage with a five piece band and played the first few songs with an acoustic guitar. It was a perfect way to ease the audience into his style of Tuareg music that is much closer to folk. After those three songs, the electric guitar came out, and the show truly took off. His guitar playing is completely mesmerizing. Every moment of every song was perfect and spellbinding, but the instrumental parts where Bombino got to just play guitar were absolutely transcendent. It makes zero sense that he doesn't get listed as one of the truly great guitarists of today, because I've seen very few come close to his playing. Maybe it's the ignorant American in me, but it's a style unlike anyone I've ever seen.

Even while singing, Bombino is very soft-spoken. He did very little (if any, really) between song banter. At the most, he thanked the sections of the crowd that kept yelling his name between songs. Any banter was handled by his bass player. As enjoyable as his vocals and melodies were, the highlight was truly his playing ability.

When Bombino came back for an encore, he did so alone. This seemed to signal the typical one or two solo songs to start off an encore, but after maybe a minute the rest of the band joined him for a fiery few songs. Bombino is one of the acts you need to make some time to see live. I can guarantee you will be changed after.

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