Wednesday July 4, 2001
If somebody had told me I would be a minority at a Nigerian show by a Nigerian artist, I would have laughed it off as a joke. But that is exactly what happened.
I arrived at the show quite early all hyped up to see Femi do his thing. I already rounded up a few friends that were interested in going to the show so as to roll together, as per Naija. Well, come show time I found myself all alone...everybody had systematically backed out. Does that sound familiar? I think so.
Well the show kicked off with a DJ spinning jams by artist that was inspired by the great Fela. I never knew there were so many Fela clones in the industry. The promoter also teased the audience with a Fela documentary that was made when he was still with us. Some of the clips date as far back as the 70s and 80s and Femi was visibly present in his father's entourage as a young buck in training. This surprised a few people in the audience as a lot of people think he just jumped off on his music career after the demise of his dad. But this cat has been honing is skills from way back and I think the promoter got her point across by playing that videotape.
At first there were a few white folks, then before I knew it there were scores of them. Within the next hour the concert hall was packed by hundreds of white folks. This had me shook as I found myself searching for Naija people to vibe with as per countrypeople basis.... at a Nigerian show. Well I ended up locating about 15. All in all the large turnout is a further testament of Femi Kuti's star power
Whatever alienation I felt disappeared as soon as the show officially kicked off. Femi's band The Positive Force charged the stage with mesmerizing Naija drums that juiced the crowd in anticipation of the grand entrance. Then 3 female dancers (including Femi's wife) shuffled onto the stage shaking their "thang thang". A hype man juiced the crowd even more and proceeded to introduce the man himself. As soon as Femi hit the stage it was non-stop energy the whole night.
I was impressed with how much control he had and you can feel the chemistry he had with his band as some of them took turns playing solo instrumentals and they got much love from the masses. These guys have totally mastered the art of performing as they came out with all guns blazing and never slowed down. They periodically worked to the crowd to frenzy and intentionally turned it down about 5 notches only to turn it up 15 notches, which drove people, wild. Those were one of the many highlights of the show.
Femi and his band mostly performed songs from his album especially the critically acclaimed 'Shoki Shoki'. He performed for 1 hour 15minutes straight and closed out the show with a scintillating performance of the mega hit 'beng beng'. He waved goodbye to the crowd and disappeared backstage. But by then everybody was basically nuts and they weren't ready to let him go. After what seemed like a 10-minute ear-piercing ovation, he stomped back onto the stage with the Positive Force and proceeded to raise the ante and performed for another full hour. They closed the show by performing a new track "Stop Aids/Fight Aids" but by that time nobody was listening to the message. Folks were strictly vibing and gyrating like there was no tommorrow. Another plus side of the show was that the sound (which is always a huge factor) was crisp and booming. That way you feel the full assault of the music.
By the end of the show anybody that didn't know finally recognized.... Femi is a superstar; and a well deserved one as a matter of fact. If Femi Kuti and the Positive Force roll through your area, do yourself a favor and go see this legend in the making perform.