Two great African music concerts in one week? In Troy? Am I dreaming?
Hot on the heels of Bassekou Kouyate at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, Benin’s Angelique Kidjo brought her band to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Thursday, April 1.
The powerhouse vocalist described the concert as “a trip back to my childhood,” and she sang several songs that she first learned as a small child, including the opening a cappella “Atch Houn.” She sang the favorite songs of her mother and father, including a gorgeous version of Sidney Bechet’s “Petite Fleur,” sung in French as a duet with his bassist Andre Manga. And she sang several tunes from the songbag of the great South African singer Miriam Makeba, with the quietly intense duet with guitarist Dominic Kanza on “Malaika” emerging as a particular standout.
While Makeba was Kidjo’s strongest musical inspiration, she also drew heavy influence from the American soul music of the ’60s, and at the Music Hall, she offered churning renditions of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” and Aretha Franklin’s “Baby, I Love You,” as well as a seductive spin through Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti.”
A Kidjo concert isn’t a passive musical experience, though, and the fierce, 49-year-old finally got the audience fully involved with a high-energy rendition of “Afirika,” as she strolled up and down the aisles of the theater, hugging and dancing with members of the crowd.
She followed with the shimmering “Agolo,” bringing several dozen fans up onto the Music Hall’s crowded stage and transforming the show into an African-American dance party.
Brazilian percussionist Gilmar Gomes moved up front and center on stage for the “Tumba” finale, as Kidjo encouraged the dancers to strut their stuff during short percussion solos. One by one, about a dozen members of the audience faced off with Gomes to shake their booties to the groove.
Kidjo’s new album, “Oyo,” is being released on Tuesday on the Razor & Tie indie label. It features many of the songs she sang in Troy and a bunch more – including a version of James Brown’s “Cold Sweat.” If it’s even half as good as she was in concert, you’re going to want to it.
You can also read my review of the concert in The Times Union.
Photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk.
ANGELIQUE KIDJO SET LIST
Dil Main Chuppa Ke Pyar Ka
Samba Pa Ti
Move On Up
Baby, I Love You