#itchysilk asked our London based journalist repmes to step-out from behind the laptop and have a night out to sample the brilliance of Angelique Kidjo. It was about witnessing the Nigerian born artist in all her live glory at the Royal Festival Hall where she performed cuts from her sixteenth album Remain In Light.
It is difficult to qualify the impact of Angelique Kidjo and her music for the mere fact that she has given so much. Her career began circa 1981 when she delivered her first album Pretty. Since that debut a further 15 albums have been released spanning her career approaching nearly forty years.
Her latest album Remain In Light produced by Jeff Bhasker (Jay Z, Beyoncé) sees the 57-year old bring her usual array of African vibes, melded with a plethora of global sounds all on a bedrock of her socially vocal Nigerian self.
But in today’s climate, album sales alone cannot lead to on-going success. In fact, an over reliance on album sales will lead to a slow but certified death. Live performances are significant in that process of success.
Using the full size of the Royal Festival Hall stage, Angelique Kidjo’s had a full army of musicians. The inclusion of Indian percussionist evidently visually asserting that Angelique Kidjo embraces a global approach (as she has done for most of her career) to the music she creates. With years of live experience clearly on show, Angelique Kidjo was at the helm orchestrating and directing proceedings.
Angelique Kidjo brought things back to basics: performer, music and audience enjoyment
She bustled with verve through an album which pays homage (with a collection of reworks) to the excellent Talking Heads (1975-1991) and their album named (as you might expect) Remain in Light (1981). Live, Angelique Kidjo engaged, captured and then fully mesmerised the audience through a high energy set punctuated by her stating, “we are here to have fun”. As an audience we duly acquiesced.
In many ways it was refreshing to see that type of old skool approach to live performances. Minus the need for intricately choreographed dance routines, numerous costume changes and themed backdrops all to vindicate the extortionate cost of the entrance, Angelique Kidjo brought things back to basics: performer, music and audience enjoyment.
A highlight of the night had to be the diminutive star beckoning the audience onto the stage. Young and older members of the crowd shimmied, shuffled and shook a leg in unison while the musicians (who were clearly enjoying the night) displayed their talents.
Angelique Kidjo has achieved what all artists hanker for and that is continued and prolonged success. Spanning changes in music and culture she has remained relevant. And while it was disappointing to see the album cover for Remain In The Light which forces an image of her still being ‘relevant’, live Angelique Kidjo did not need to force her ‘relevance’ because she clearly still is relevant.
Image by Simon Jay Price