by Wilfred Okiche
Every once in a half decade, Bez puts out an album. Since he became a recording artiste, he has released two of them, 2011’s Supersun, and Gbagyi Child released last month. Every once in four years, he will put up a live concert. To promote the album specifically, but also tangentially, to show other acts how it is done.
And how is it done these days?
In an open air environment- Victoria Island’s Muri Okunola Park- that gives off a festival kind of vibe, with mostly young music lovers sitting on mats and sipping on tepid drinks from food stands nearby. On Christmas Eve.
These cool kids have come to watch Bez perform live in only the second major concert to be headlined by him in country. They have come for Bez but before that, they will get opening acts Sir Dauda, Johnny Drille and the spectacular Falana. Not a bad deal at all.
Sir Dauda and Johnny Drille kicked off with well-received renditions of new and old songs, covers and originals. But it was the (still criminally) underground Falana who commanded all the attention, the way only established stars pull off with an electric performance of the Nina Simone classic, Feeling good. Safe to say that Falana does the best scats in the business. Divine.
Bez came on with an intro that was rehearsed to wow but sound issues kept interrupting his- and the audience’s mojo- and after a brief run through of Supersun favourites The Good, the bad, the ugly, I Know and Say, he was forced to briefly interrupt the show till pending issues were sorted.
When he resumed about half an hour later, it was to a slowed down tempo. Long-time friend and collaborator Kaline joined him for their now familiar take on More you. Simi was also present for a very competent rendition of Breathe from Gbagyi Child.
The set was planned such that the tempo kept rising gradually till the sing-along goodness of Zuciya daya. Bez invited a few fans to give their own renditions before inviting famous friends, Falana (again), Timi Dakolo and Cobhams Asuquo to join him for a star-studded sing-along on stage.
Just when things couldn’t get any livelier, a stunning and visually exciting sequence involving Fela’s Water no get enemy was segued in, complete with a terrific line-up of female dancers with bodies painted and skins glistening, twerking and shimmying to the intoxicating blend of Afrobeat and Jazz. This set piece ended with Bez in the midst of his dancers adopting the famous Fela pose with his fists pumped high in the air. The only critique of this high point of the show obviously was its brevity.
The goodness continued with music from his latest album Gbagyi Child and Bez performed songs like Home for Gbagyi and Eternity before rounding out with a throbbing performance of the excellent There’s a fire. He also threw in an extra, That stupid song just when it seemed like he was done.
As a performer, Bez was in top form. He clung to his guitar for most of the night and between he and Nsikak David, the lead guitarist of his band, there were enough fiery guitar moments to last several concerts. Bez brought out his charming smile, working the stage like a pro, moving and dancing expressively with the music.
There was no smashing guitar moment like that seen in the 2012 concert but there was also no denying that Bez has come into his own as a live performer. His moves were rock star like, his sound all encompassing. And the crowd? Well the mats laid out earlier in the night were soon trampled upon as excited fans surged forwards to get closer to the action.
Electrifying, splendidly entertaining with a tinge of sweet spiritual surrender, Bez Live 2016 was great music served properly. Live, loud, organic, and endlessly thrilling.
Everyone else should be taking notes.