Femi Kuti – Live at the Barbican

Last night at the Barbican, Femi confirmed to an international audience what Nigerians have long known: Femi is a major star in his own right and has long since stepped out from the long shadow cast by his father.


But before he even stepped on stage, we had been treated to the irrepressible Daara J and a powerful film of life in Nigeria set to the music of one of Fela’s most seditious numbers, ‘Zombie’. Senegalese Daara J forced this weekend-weary audience onto its feet with a non-stop blast of hip hop and reggae in equal measures. No mean feat when you consider the barbican is not the friendliest venue for those minded to dance. Daara J can already fill venues like this on their own so to get them as a support was something else.

By the end of the show his light cotton trousers are soaked all the way down to his feet. Nobody works harder on stage…

And then there was Femi. Bursting on to the stage in the full blare of his anthem, ‘Truth Don Die’, he set the crowd alight with a mix of his own classics gradually giving way to more and more material from his new album Africa Shrine. As soon as he got on stage, a loyal, and ever growing, contingent of Nigerian fans took up what little standing room there was and danced, sang and chanted for Femi.
With a bassline to kill for ‘Dem Bobo’ looked set to be the highlight of the gig but actually turned out to be the base of an ever extending upwards curve. The full fire and funk of the man would be unleashed on tracks like ‘Can’t Buy Me’ and ‘Scatter’.
I could not suppress a smile for ‘Shotan’ when the band threw some water bottles around the stage. For those who have seen the DVD he has just released, they would realize that this is the track that earns Femi a deluge of plastic from the audience every time he performs it at the Shrine. Hearing it live, you can see why the crowd demand it (although I wonder if Femi sometimes wishes it would go away).
Femi’s prodigious talent and energy are spent running between different instruments (trumpet, keys, soprano sax and tenor sax) not to mention singing and leading the band. By the end of the show his light cotton trousers are soaked all the way down to his feet. Nobody works harder on stage and we know from the recent DVD that he works just as hard off-stage.
The whole evening was a total triumph and interestingly, Femi broke with his usual convention of ending with one or two tracks from his father’s repertoire. It is a mark of the man that no one even seemed to notice.
–Photo by author–
Link: Pictures of Femi Kuti live at the Barbican in London

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