The much anticipated London leg of Nigerian Afrobeats sensation Wizkid’s UK Starboy tour has come and gone. On a gloomy and wet Bank Holiday Monday when many would have opted for the comfort of their couch to watch legends perform at the Jubillee Concert broadcast live on TV, it was no small feat for the legend in the making to draw a 5000 strong audience to HMV Hammersmith Apollo. And as many tweeted, Wizkid rocked – and rolled; the self-proclaimed (a claim supported by thousands of screaming and fainting fans) ‘Superstar’ shut down West London and brought down the house.
We got to the venue at around 6.30pm and found, to our surprise, one of the most organised queues HMV Apollo has ever seen at Afrobeats concerts (Those of you who have been to last year’s MoHits and Afrobeats Festival would probably have an idea how chaotic these queues could get). It seems, for a change, the organisers were tolerant of the press as we did not have to battle through hundreds of press lists or any clueless skivvies rolling eyes and huffing, “Sorry I can’t find your name.” Got in, got photo passes, got through security – all in all a civilised experience we hope will be a trend rather than the exception at future Afrobeats gigs.
Once inside, the atmosphere was already electric, with fans singing along to mixes by DJ Bayo, DJ Unbeatable and DJ Neptizzle. Led by the Afrobeats funny man in residence, Eddie Kadi, ladies brave enough to take on the wolf whistles and jeers from the Hammersmith audience took to the stage to show their Azonto prowess. As the hall gradually started filling up, and opening acts such as Mista Silva and Skales entertained the audience, each with their distinctive blend of Afrobeats, Wizkid and co had a few surprises up their superstar sleeves too.
A surprise guest one would not normally see polishing the stage boards with some hardcore Azonto moves was Premiereship footballer Djibril Cissé who took to the stage with some incredible foot work – this time moving to the Azonto beats rather than ball skills – as he took on an Azonto battle first with Eddie Kadi, then with the ladies’ battle finalist and proved that he could move just as well off the pitch as on it.
Another big surprise was Nollywood actress Funke Akindele bringing a Yoruba flavour to West London with an on-stage evoking of the film character that brought her stardom – Jenifa. Funke also didn’t hold back when it came to some killer moves alongside Eddie Kadi as the DJs battled it out for the DJ challenge. Within the ten minutes Funke rocked the Hammersmith Apollo stage, it became obvious that this comedy force to be reckoned with could sell out arenas with a live comedy show if she wanted to (Funke, I might just charge you for that idea!)
By 9pm, the fans who had by now robbed Skales of his ankara lined denim jacket were voracious – they wanted Wizkid and they wanted him now. And as if on cue, Nigeria’s boy wonder burst on to the stage. And as expected the ladies in the house went kraa-yyzzzee!
The first time I had the opportunity to see Wizkid live was Christmas 2009 at Tribeca in Lagos at Tiwaworks’s annual All Black Everything party where he entertained the guests alongside MI – the rapper who brought him on to the airwaves with the chorus to Money (Who could ever forget the tenor”If you don’t have money, omo don’t show up”?) – and Banky W whom the singer to date refers to as his big brother. Even then his charisma and star power were evident in the way women twice his age barely kept from falling into the Tribeca pool cheering the young man (then only 20). Two years later that charisma has only quadrupled. I recall Wizkid expressing a wish, in an interview with FAB, to be the ‘young Fela’ – well if the sort of frenzy the legendary King of Afrobeat would be proud of is anything to go by, Wizzy is well on his way to Fela-esque fame.
As fans sang along to Wizkid’s hits from “Holla at Your boy” to “Tease Me”, there came another surprise, formerly of MoHits, now of Mavin, another stellar name of Nigerian music, Wande Coal was on stage. In quick succession was another – perhaps a more obvious – surprise. As many would have expected, ‘big bro’ Banky W was in the house to bring “Lagos Party” right here to West London. In between the music and the fun, Banky also didn’t forget the victims of Sunday’s Dana Air crash victims in Lagos and in true socially conscious Banky style asked the audience for a moment of silence.
After a sombre moment of remembrance it was back to jubilation as fitting the Jubilee Weekend. First came the VT from Akon who couldn’t be with his young protege who was signed to Konvict Muzik in April 2012 then Kanya King MBE who joined the EME (Empire Mates Entertainment) boys on stage to present Wizzy with his Best African Act 2011 MOBO which he was not able to receive in person.
We left the venue moments before the night came to an end, weaving our way through a still packed concert hall which reportedly contained some stellar names in the audience such as Tinie Tempah. Soon after, our Twitter timeline was filled with news of Wizkid losing his chain to his frenzied fans – “Wizkid got nabbed in London” one read, whilst another said, “Wizkid gets robbed at his own concert.” A small price for such a grand feat – filling up Hammersmith Apollo to the brim on a Bank Holiday Weekend and treating them to three hours of explosive entertainment. We couldn’t help but remember another tweet from Wizkid himself from earlier on Sunday – “making Mama proud”; indeed!