Songhoy Blues. The Anson Rooms, Bristol.

Mali’s most famous band. Venue I’ve never been too, that’s part of Bristol University Students’ Union.

6 Music play Songhoy Blues all the time, that’s where I had heard of them. Everyone I know who has seen them live has said how great they were so way back in July I booked this ticket, hoping that it would be near the end of the 40 gigs challenge. Then I went to a lot more gigs and this became gig 49. I’ve never been to the Anson Rooms before. What a smashing venue. Great sound, lighting and space. I’d love to photograph there, the press pit is about a mile wide! The staff were helpful and friendly, the vibe was good and the ceiling was high. A big, open space that felt welcoming. I’ll happily go back.

I was sharing this gig with Janine, who has been my most frequent gig companion this year. Its so fab to have a friend with music taste as eclectic as mine to share gigs with. We were both really excited about this gig, and had been looking forward to it for some time. We arrived in time for most of the support act, who’s name I didn’t catch. He was a great blues guitarist is about all I can tell you. We secured a front row spot at the end of his set and waited with excitement for Songhoy Blues to come on.

From the moment Songhoy Blues came on I was smiling, and the smile did not leave my face until after they left the stage. This was such joy bringing and life affirming music. It was superb. I was struck by their youth and vitality. Vibrant, energetic and so much fun to watch play. Usually there are times at a gig when I want to close my eyes and absorb it all, but I couldn’t tonight. There was just too much to see on the stage. The gurning and grinning drummer, the lost in the moment guitarist, the cool as funk bass player and the frantic dancing of the singer. They were having so much fun up there on that stage that you couldn’t help but get swept up in it.

I was dancing, I was smiling and I was feeling so much love and energy from the band and crowd. This was a winter warmer of a gig. It was funky. It was loud. It was groovy. It was downright down and dirty in places. The bass and the drum vibrated my chest and the guitar left me in awe. Imagine if The Funk Brothers had gotten together with James Brown and Jimmy Hendrix to form a supergroup, but they had been raised in Africa and you might be approaching what Songhoy Blues play. Its funk, rock, blues with soul and ska, all backed with African rhythms. They are amazing.

Standout tracks would have to include their most well known, Bamako, Mali Nord and the track they made with Iggy Pop, Sahara, although to be honest they were all fabulous. There was a song dedicated to refugees, another One Colour about bringing us together. I don’t speak French, the language of the lyrics, but I speak bass and guitar and drums. We were united tonight by music. Music binds and draws us close. Through music we make friends. We sustain ourselves and each other. So much of 40 gigs was and is about exactly that. To have it made musical flesh tonight was special.

Janine and I had been talking about a top 10 gig list before tonight. This was a top 10 gig. It was within a few tracks. It was so joyous and happy and life affirming. On a dull, cold, winters night we were warmed physically and mentally by the music.

Thank you Songhoy Blues, this was a special gig. One I will treasure.

49 gigs. 9 more than target but 1 my heart will remember.


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