Cafe Oto, London
27th September 2016
Magma have just finished their 2016 UK tour. Louder Than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews the last night of their three day residency at Cafe Oto.
After playing a single show at the very posh Cadogan Hall on their UK tour last year, Magma was back in London in the rootsier surroundings of Dalston’s Cafe Oto. As Stella Vander said during the show, they are trying to emulate the residencies they have been doing at Le Triton in Paris for several years in other cities and countries. This enables the fans to see Magma in intimate venues and the band can get a bit more comfortable in the room. It looks like this approach has been successful as the three shows sold out well in advance. Magma on this tour were playing two of their most iconic pieces “Theusz Hamtaahk”, never recorded in the studio but that has been part of the band’s live repertoire since the mid seventies and their most well known piece, 1973’s “Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh”. An excellent way for new Magma to discover the band live as proved an audience divided between old fans and newcomers. Magma’s music is not for everyone but when you click to it, it provides you with one of the most rewarding listening experiences you could wish for. The line up for this tour included new guitarist Rudy Blas (covering for James McGraw who is recovering from a serious illness), vibes player Benoit Alziary, keyboard player Jérome Martineau-
“Theusz Hamtaahk” is a maelstrom of rhythms and vocals that are anchored around insistent keyboard riffs and melodies that glue the different parts together. Watching Christian Vander perform this piece like he had written it yesterday is a real privilege. As he often explains in interviews, he is unable to hold back when performing. With bass player Philippe Bussonnet (the band’s secret weapon), they form an incredible rhythm section section. The piece in its final stages enables the trio of vocalist to take centre stage. Stella’s vocals on “Tü lü lï ʌë üi dü wiï” are particularly mesmerizing. After a short break that enables everybody could catch their breath and stretch their fingers, we were treated to Magma’s most famous work “Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh”. Rarely has music been so uplifting and inspiring, an exhilarating experience. Magma operate on a different level, the music draws you in so much that you sometimes forget about the virtuoso display of musicianship that is taking place right before your eyes. The sounds, the notes, the rhythms convey a story and you can picture the journey of the nation rebelling against its tyrant leader from the initial struggle to its luminous ending. The band generously performed a third piece, the title track from their first album “Kobaia” with it driving bass line and jazzy feel. The band called it a day and left the room to the sounds of a standing ovation from the delighted audience.