It is with a sense of national pride that Nigerians watched Wizkid take his material from Ojuelegba in Lagos state, to headlining a sold out one night special at London’s 5,272 capacity Royal Albert hall. It is one thing to secure a crossover hit, as Wizkid did with Ojuelegba. Yet another to score a Billboard Hot 100 number one as he managed in a supporting capacity, alongside Drake and Kyla. But to be bold enough to sell out a storied venue, in a foreign land, now that is indeed something.
After plans to bring his act back home to Lagos fell through last December- Wizkid cited health concerns- his management turned to Pepsi and Flytime to deliver a homecoming worth the while. Everybody and their mother hosts concerts in the month of December, but Wizkid’s was always going to be one of the hottest tickets in town.
The Eko Convention Centre was filled beyond capacity as people trooped out in their numbers on D-day to catch a feel of the only Starboy recognized this side of the Atlantic.
Like most Nigerian concerts, seating arrangement was delineated across three tiers, with pricing serving as the dividing factor. The Regular attendees who parted with 5000 Naira, as always, got the shortest end of the stick. Placed as far away from the action on stage as possible, they also had to suffer the inconvenience of overcrowding and having to pay at least an extra thousand to secure seats that they eventually did not need. Maybe only to stand atop.
One of the first things Wizkid did when he finally made his way to the stage, three hours after the advertised start time, was to upend this stratification, by blending the audience. VVIPs were forced to share their expensively acquired space with the regular folks.
The music was good, for a while, as Wizkid put the live band and backup singers to good use. The Wizkid discography is so large yet so familiar that any song he attempted to perform was immediately claimed by the audience. There was some effort on his part to do songs like Manya and Sweet Love the proper way, but when it became obvious the crowd wanted more than he came prepared to give, Wizkid reverted to cheat mode.
He did this by bringing on poorly sequenced guest appearances. Skepta came over from the United Kingdom so his set must have been planned at least but the majority of the supporting acts had a loose spontaneity to them. It was as tough upon arrival in Lagos, Wizkid and his team began to call in favors, asking for a quick show of support from of-the-moment artistes whom he has recorded songs with at some point in his career.
The crowd went wild for each surprise act that came on.
The most mind blowing coming, of course, from perceived rival, Davido, but most of them did not bother to really perform their material. Shock value it seemed was enough. And goodwill, plus the sing along factor which they had going for them, thanks to their huge hits.
Maleek Berry fared better than most in that he at least tried- not so successfully- to sing. But everyone from Tiwa Savage- the only female artiste on the bill,- to 2baba and Davido simply came to phone it in. To support their brother, as we like to say in show business. The DJ did all the work.
Lazy performers like Tekno, Olamide and Phyno were quite at home with the setup, lip syncing and relying on their mega hits to get by. Even Wande Coal who justified his inclusion at the Royal Albert Hall with an energetic interlude, was a changed man in Lagos, too big to bother. And why should he? People will sing along, word for word, (as much as they can be called words) to Iskaba and Baby Hello.
Wizkid played the game of being overwhelmed with his impressive discography and thus, continued to pull out song after song, insisting on labelling each one a classic. He was exaggerating his influence but if ever there is one Wizkid classic, then it has to be Ojuelegba, the ultimate grass to grace story. The man performed it with relish, urging everyone to light up the hall with their phones.
Two moments involving kids were endearing. Wizkid introduced his first son, Boluwatife to plenty ohs and ahs, and then changed the life of a prodigious rapper from his hometown of Ijebu Ode who seized the two minutes that Wizkid handed him, to make a startling impression. The lad is now the latest addition to Wizkid’s Star Boy label.
A massive Lagos party, a thoroughly enjoyable reunion of sorts- absent Banky W and the EME crew, Wizkid touching base with his original audience and day one fans, call the night of 24th December whatever you want. Just don’t call it a proper Wizkid concert.
He still owes Lagos that.
The writer tweets from @drwill20
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.