Super talented Nigerian singer, songwriter & producer Odunsi (The Engine) has been dubbed by many as the king of the new school genre “Altè”, which is certainly bubbling up from the African continent. Described as a fusion of R&B, African rhythms, funk and whole lot more, he has definitely made an impact on the music scene, at home and most certainly abroad.
And now with his first UK tour, he was connecting the dots, reaching to market who willingly embrace all types of music from the African continent. A sold-out The Garage in Highbury, North London was to be the stage for the evening, the final stop on his three leg tour of the UK as he promotes his new album rare.
What is a good concert without a good warm-up DJ? Or DJs for that matter. As DJ Femo, Vivendi Sounds and co transitioned between acts with their creatively ambitious skills and a casual throwback or two, it was definitely warmly welcomed by the crowd. A quick word to the host of the night, whose energy, enthusiasm and dance moves helped keep spirits high. And what about the acts?
Odunsi had a rolodex of opening acts at his disposal, with each act given their little 15 minutes in the spotlight. Literally. I don’t think any opener had more than 10 minutes to perform. Nonetheless, the artists varied in terms of genre; we went from Trap to Hip-Hop to R&B-Soul. Notable mentions to $B, SV, Somadina and Tomi Agape who graced the stage; some brought their A-game more than others to be honest.
Now onto the main event. We knew we were in for a treat when R&B/Soul songstress Hamzaa came out to the stage. Completely unexpected. Coming off the back of her own headline show just a few weeks ago, she graced the London stage as she belted out the rare. opener to thunderous roar. Odunsi is a rockstar in every sense of the word. How many artists do you know that will come out in a sparkly, sequin-donned, matching blue two piece fit?
With a full band holding him down, he went to work bringing to life all the fan favourites from his new album plus some older hits from his discography, no need for a DJ. There are just certain songs that just hit harder with a live band like “outcast” or “star signs” for example. Every hit track had the crowd roaring in acclaim and Odunsi definitely performed the heck out of each one.
And he would be remiss if he didn’t bring back Hamzaa to perform their track “take me there” from the album. If her recent EP didn’t already make attendees fans, then her appearance on the night definitely did. Odunsi’s star power was shining brighter than his sequined attire, or the patent leather ensemble he wore after his first outfit change. As he bantered with the crowd, he shared his appreciation to the fans for putting him in his position.
Hearing Odunsi live, you appreciate the many quality songs in his catalogue. “falling”, “divine”, “angel”, “take a break”, “Altè Cruise” and previous joints like “Desire” with Tay Iwar.
Tay Iwar’s appearance was definitely one of the major high points of the night. A frequent collaborator of Odunsi, seeing them perform together for the first time was one of a kind. He got his own 15 minutes in the spotlight as Odunsi headed off for yet another outfit change, in which Tay performed some exclusives from his upcoming album. He’s definitely got some heat coming, that’s for sure.
But what really got people paying attention was when he took the electric guitar from the guitarist on stage and just performed. “Miracle Girl” is already a great song but hearing it live – just him, the guitar and his voice was sensational. Goosebumps worthy. 234jaydaa also gave a memorable performance during another Odunsi outfit change, serenading the crowd with her own rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Liberian Girl” – “Nigerian Girl”.
From the many acts that graced the stage, you could tell that this was definitely a family affair. As DRB Lasgidi took to the stage with Odunsi for “Owo Necessary” before being ambushed by the whole backstage for Santi’s “Rapid Fire” in his absence, you could really feel the love in the room and pride for their superstar – if not made obvious by the mosh and the several wheel-ups.
In all, Odunsi’s London headline show was a night of pure good vibes and good music. Not bad for a first ever tour, right?
Words by Jay Tijani