04 November 2011 (gig)
06 November 2011
I saw Seun Kuti at the Royal Festival Hall back in April and he – along with Africa 80 – was simply magnificent but having the chance to see them in a dancehall environment was an irresistible opportunity and the experience was even more intense.
Packing all of Africa 80 onto the stage at 229 was tricky – along with the backing singers they amass 14 without the main man – but it generated a more intense sound and put over the depth of the funk and Afrobeat even more strongly. Kuti’s dancing was a little more constrained because of the lack of space but it did mean that his focus was right there on the crowd rather than on a distant mass and he seemed to relish the close quarter crowd.
Musically they were superb as you would expect and Africa 80 are far more than a backing band – when Kuti was off stage they were hot, heavy and supremely rhythmic but when Kuti took centre stage he really did focus all of the bands energy on the song.
Of the songs, ‘Rise’ was simply brilliant -= even darker and more angry than the last time out and it really seemed to put out all of the pain that Africa has felt over centuries of exploitation.
The experience of being in amongst the crowd was exhilarating – at the RFH they were appreciative but apart from the performance but here the closeness of the band and the impact of the jazz and beats and the ability for the crowd to dance created a hot and sweaty environment packed with movement and shapes.
All told, a brilliant show and the right way to experience the band in their pomp.
Support on the night was from Yaaba Funk. A London afrobeat and Hi-Life outfit who entertained the crowd with some furious funk. Around 11 strong and featuring the vocals of Richmond Kessie and Helen McDonald they have a powerful sound with surprising touches of subtlety – superb musicians all of them on this evidence. They built up the heat and the tension to a storming finale and they are a band I will definitely be keeping an eye out for in the future.