The most important performer in contemporary Nigerian music needs no excuse to hold a live concert.
Matter of fact it is somewhat of a letdown that he does not do them as often as he should and speaks to some structural issues in the industry. 2Baba has the discography, he has the fan base, the authority and the bankability. He has after all been king for 20 years now, first as a member of the Plantashun Boiz and then as a solo artiste.
So when 2Baba’s handlers wrap his latest live concert held on the 28, December 2019 at the Eko Hotel and Suites Convention Centre as a celebration of two decades of consistent hitmaking, it feels right yes. But it also feels a tad excessive. Does 2Baba really need a landmark anniversary like this to host a concert? He doesn’t.
Like many stops in this year’s Detty December calendar, this one did not start until well into the night. After a couple of up and comers had had their say and comedian Kenny Blaq did his bit to rally the audience, and host Sound Sultan had introduced himself, and more of the VVIP tables had been occupied and DJ Jimmy Jatt had run through a medley of songs 2Baba would not be performing, the show could finally start.
2Baba arrived without fuss- on brand for him- assisted by the trio of T-boiz, winners of his latest talent search attempt. They would later return to perform their groovy new single. 2Baba performed early Plantasun Boiz hits like Baby Don’t You Know and Knock Me Off before segueing smoothly into some of his biggest hits. You know the ones.
With an act like 2Baba headlining, it is safe to expect that the rest of the concert is bound to turn into a sing-along experience with people screaming themselves hoarse while mouthing the familiar lyrics word for word. 20 Years a King was exactly that. From his seminal first album, Face2Face, 2Baba brought back songs like Nfana Ibaga, Ole, Keep on Rockin’ and U No Holy Pass. He had earlier made it clear he wouldn’t be performing his biggest hit African Queen.
2Baba displayed an insane amount of control over his material, leading the band deftly and overcoming minor sound issues to have the audience feed off the palm of his hand. He isn’t the best of dancers but he made up for this with the backup dancers who impressed with their coordinated steps. While going through his catalog, he kept asking a vexing question, ‘’Una remember this song?” in a misguided attempt to constantly energize his audience. it was a redundant question as his songs simply do not lend themselves to easily forgettable status.
After over an hour of performing, 2Baba took a toilet/costume change break before coming back to deploy more firepower. During the break, actress Osas Ighodaro gave a brief but solid monologue detailing high and low points in 2Baba’s chequered career. Remember that time he was shot and hospitalized in Festac?
Things soon scaled down a bit to a more “spiritual level” as he described it himself. 2Baba performed mid-tempo songs like Fly, E Be Like Say and One Love. He brought on surprise guest Waje who hit all the high notes on their duet Frenemies. 9ice came on for the iconic Street Credibility after which 9ice did a medley of some of his own material, terminating of course with Gongo Aso. DJ Jimmy Jatt returned for Stylee and Sound Sultan was on hand for Ole (Bushmeat) .
Then 2Baba rounded things off with the arena stomping surge of Implication. But it wasn’t over yet as he announced a “parte after parte” section, ostensibly to accommodate some of his superstar friends who couldn’t make it for the main show.
Wizkid had a blink and you miss it appearance, so did akpako master, Terry G who is still able to bring the house down despite a recent dip in form. Patoranking and Reekado Banks also came on stage and then Solid Star, a self-professed beneficiary of 2Baba’s kindness closed the show. Actually, it wasn’t so much a closing as it was an abrupt end. For a while, it seemed like more performers were expected and then there seemed to be some ruckus backstage and 2Baba left the arena without so much as a goodbye to the still expectant audience. a strange way to end a thoroughly entertaining event. Not cool but it seems that bad behavior is forgivable when royalty is involved.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.