Brymo’s December concert seemed prepped for a stutter before it started, 2 hours after it was scheduled to begin. The choice of arena did not seem like the best of decisions. The bleacher seats seemed more suited to a presentation, an installation than Brymo, an artiste whose traditional leanings and rousing sound demands some sort of acknowledgement, swaying or dancing.
As the audience filled the arena, you could hear the odd fan complain that she would not be able to dance in her seat or that there was little room to move around. But in time, some of our guesses were proved right and like the best performers, the man delivered on the unspoken promise that he makes when he invites his fans out for a premium experience.
The band known as ‘Scata Vibration’ opened the show. Introduced as makers of afro-psychedelic rock, their performance of songs of their self-titled 2017 album, set an electric mood for the show, elevating concepts of African identity and liberation with a masterclass by the electric guitarist.
In a clear nod to Fela and Tony Allen, the group’s singer, Stiques opened with a rendition of “Goslow“, calling out vocals in Hausa, mixed with afro-beat drum patterns with string melodies that played with traditional Stadium sound popularised by bands from Pearl Jam to Coldplay.
Over the next two performances, the drums gave way to a chorus that would have gladdened the heart of traditional rock fans but the vocals delivered in Hausa brought them back home to a familiar audience.
On one part, it was rock as made by Creed; on the other, it was Stiques, with blond hair and a soothsayer’s beard, raising dust in Hausa and Pidgin.
When Stiques jumped off the canopy over one of the stage’s entrances at the end of his performance of ‘Headless Chicken‘, it was a fitting release for an energy that they had steadily built.
One would expect that the grandest of entries would be reserved for the headline act but it would not have been Ibejii if he had simply walked on stage. Backed by a 5 piece band and an equal number of backing singers, the singer’s set was about much more than the music, a mix of juju and traditional Yoruba folk music.
His charisma, almost aloof at times, allowed him to remain the focus as the audience swayed along to a performance that seemed much like a family communing on stage.
And then it was time for the man of the hour.
Brymo has many strengths and one of them is his rare ability to sing about the most personal and most human issues with a sense of urgency, an immediacy that is almost like a preacher’s.
It was with this urgency that he simply walked on stage and with not so much as an introduction, began a rendition of “Again” off his third independent album, Tabula Rasa.
Traditional Brymo fans are familiar with his band, a group of instrumentalists, known as the “Lagos Touts”. This time, they had company in the form of an eight-piece string orchestra that Brymo tagged the “Lagos Businessmen”.
With such acoustic support, it made sense that the singer would run through his more reflective songs. He performed “In the City” and “Down” in quick succession.
When the intensity had built up and it seemed that the singer was all that mattered, an expressionist dancer joined him in the background, bringing his music to life with leaps, twists and perhaps too much dusting powder.
When artistes headline shows as everyone and their favourite producer seems so eager to do this December, the first question is usually what they will perform.
This question often hits hard for artistes seeking to make the most of a good year or a couple of successful singles. For an artiste like Brymo, four albums into a storied career, it is often an invitation more than anything else.
The singer made an acapella performance of his smash hit “Good Morning” that he used to pull the curtains on the orchestra’s contributions and the more sombre half of his set.
Then it was time to party.
In between short monologues, he took requests from the audience, performing “1 Pound”, teasing the audience by bringing up “Fe Mi” over and over again, before he finally launched into the love song.
By this time, it was clear that the bleacher seats were not enough of a challenge to have any effect. Midway through his set, a fair share of the audience was on their feet.
When he said to the audience that his mother was in the audience and she called out in return, “I dey here!”, applause broke out in waves as if the crowd was appreciating her on his behalf.
Despite not making a steady supply of hits singles (and he acknowledges this), Brymo’s rise and acclaim have come from honing his craft to a level where he can call beauty from stones, finding success in a scene where others have given in to the circumstances.
His raspy voice over resounding band work got people out of bleacher seats, not very comfortable, but dancing.
When “1 Pound” turned the hall into a frenzy and everyone unwisely tried to emulate a voice that was louder and clearer than his Band at times, it was in spite of the circumstances not because of them.
In many ways, it was a presentation and then some, a sort of update from an artiste whose most loyal fans will swear by him and the casual listener regards with a sense of awe, and respect even.
As the event wound down, a fan said, “Brymo knows his people, he knows what they want and he knows how he gives it to them”.
This rings true of the most successful acts and for Brymo, it may be a case of knowing what they need and letting his person, real and unfiltered, do the rest for him.’
It is that single ability that gave fans the premium experience at Brymo Live at the Terra Kulture Arena.
Even when he would walk off the stage to greet friends or stop a song midway, there was no sense of doubt or uncertainty about what was going on.
At every point, he was in sole control. Fans of the artiste will know that this is no one-off incident.
It was the manifestation of a man at one with his himself, his art and his audience.