Tinariwen played The Sinclair – 6/6

Desert blues pioneers Tinariwen returned to Greater Boston for a sold-out Sinclair show with support from Jersey’s Garcia Peoples.


Every band has a story, but it feels safe to say that Tinariwen’s is more of an epic than most. Their roots trace back more than 40 years to the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria, where exiled guitarist/vocalist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib first began performing music with and for other members of the Tuareg community there. Amid political upheaval in their native Mali, brushes with armed conflict and a myriad of other logistical challenges, the subsequent years eventually saw the collective he formed rise to regional renown, recognition as architects of the desert blues sound and international fame. The path has taken Tinariwen around the globe, and their current iteration, still led by Ag Alhabib, visited Cambridge last week in support of May release Amatssou.

Genre shorthand isn’t always a particularly useful way talk about music, but in the case of “desert blues,” it does get to the heart of the fusion of Western rock influences with traditional North African sounds that Tinariwen have been honing for so many years. Lush, hypnotic and psychedelic, it truly sounds like no one else. It’s no wonder that the band has garnered a proselytizing fanbase far and wide, including a freshman year college friend who first introduced me to them some years back as, flatly, “the greatest band in the world.”

Five hundred or so of said fans were on hand last Tuesday to offer a warm welcome for Tinariwen’s first local date since 2019, and they returned the enthusiasm with an enrapturing 90 minutes on stage. Rotating members between instruments and mics throughout the set, with as many as three guitarists interweaving a spartan but effective rhythm section, the band achieved that rare sustained effect of transporting the listener many, many miles from the confines of a dim rock club.

Openers Garcia Peoples, who I just caught during their two-night stand at O’Brien’s in February, were well-matched in delivering their bright psych-rock jams to a crowd perhaps unfamiliar, but willing to open their ears.

Scroll for photos of both sets below.