Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On Life: Asa's Concert (Review)

On Monday evening, I went to see Asa play at the Carling Academy in London. Her gig was amazing! I knew I would enjoy her show because I love all the songs on her album, but she definitely exceeded my expectations.

I went with two of my friends, one of them had only heard three of her songs and he was so captured by her that he wanted to see her play live. And we were not disappointed. We got to the venue early and since I had bought our tickets ages ago, so we didn't have to join the long queue. We got in at 7.30pm and got a space right at the front of the venue (it was standing only) and we waited for the show to begin. The hall filled up quickly, most of the people in the audience were Nigerians, but there were also some French people and other nationalities there.

The show began with the opening act, Ben Onono. He sang four songs, one of them called Badagry Beach, another called Blue Moon, and he also played the piano brilliantly. After he finished, the audience clapped and cheered, and we waited expectantly for the main performer to come on.

Ben Onono

Some people in the audience started chanting "Asa, Asa, Asa". One by one, her band members came on the stage, took a bow and began playing their instruments. The crowd started cheering and then her back-up singer came on, smiling at us like she knew we were waiting for Asa herself to come on. Then we heard the beginnings of her song "360" and the crowd went wild. Asa came on stage singing the song and the audience joined in, singing all the words and screaming.

She was brilliant - in one word. She was dressed simply with minimum fuss and make up, but she had amazing stage presence and we were all mesmerized. She interacted with the audience, performed like the star she is, and brought all her songs to life. During a performance by the band, she danced and the girl can move! For most of the show, the audience sang along and she seemed pleased by the response she got. At some point, her back-up singer was staring at the crowd in surprise and amusement because we had taken over her job!

After the first song, she sang "Subway" and then before she started singing "Bibanke" she told us the gist about the song. It was deep. Next came a new song that is not on her album, something like "Iro Ko Da". She then asked a member of the audience to come and join her to sing on stage. So many people screamed and jostled for her attention, it was funny. She called two girls up to the stage and they sang beautifully. "Fire on the Mountain" followed and of course we sang along, cheered, clapped and whooped when the song came to an end.

She chatted a bit and then started telling us the story behind the "Awe" song, teasing us with the enticing bits about the young man, his aunt and his lover. I enjoyed that and I thought it was really good, because I love the song and I know what the words mean, but I hadn't really gotten the gist of it before. When she sang it all the words came to life and you could almost imagine the people that were in the situation she described.

The next song she performed was "Peace" which we all enjoyed. When she started "Jailer" and invited the audience to sing along with her, we all went crazy, jumping up and down, waving our arms, screaming the song at the top of our lungs, and it was great! We definitely rocked that venue!

Then she sang "Beautiful", but before then, she told us that the song was dedicated to all beautiful ladies in the crowd, and she tried to engage us to "sing" along with her, teasing us by saying we should sing very softly so that the guys in the audience would "feel" it. We cleared our throats and tried our best to copy her but most of us just descended into giggles. Then she sang the song and gave it so much depth and meaning, doing a nice dance in the middle, to the beat of the drums.

She said the next song "No One Knows Tomorrow" was going to be the last song. So we savoured it and when the song came to an end, she thanked the audience, took a bow and went off stage. Some people started to leave, but most people in the audience decided to hang around and started chanting "Asa! More, More!" Then she and the band came back on stage! She said they stopped the music because she is shy and when she mentioned her name, we did not encourage her. So we screamed ourselves hoarse and then she decided to perform a few more songs for us.

She sang "Eye Adaba" wonderfully well, then she also performed two songs: one by Nina Simone and another by Bob Marley. Lastly, she did a mixed medley of three of her songs and then the show came to an end. We cheered, clapped and screamed and she said we were making her miss home, so when next she comes to London she would love to see us again, and stop by our house for some egusi soup :-) She introduced us to her excellent band: there was Janet, her back-up singer, Jeff played the drums, Nicola played the Guitar, Rodi played Bass and Didier played the key boards. They all took a bow, while we all clapped and cheered for them.

In all, it was a great show and a really good performance by Asa. I think I'm now her biggest fan! Her band was great too, so the quality of the music was excellent. I wish she could do another show in London before the end of the year, I'll definitely be there. The only downside was that it started late and it was a Monday so most people had to leave immediately the show ended to get home.
Here are some of my amateur photos of the gig: