A nice mid-week gig outing to the Islington Assembly Hall, dancing to a bit of Afrobeat.
A great support band, the Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra, did a perfect job as a support act - they were exciting enough to warm the growing crowd up, proving themselves to a new audience as a band to look out for in their own headline spots in future, but they still left enough out of their performance to be completely blown out of the water by the incredible Antibalas.
I'd never got fully into Antibalas before, I've been listening to them for a few years but not really got past looking them up on spotify when the mood suggested. I now understand them to be the lynchpins of everything that's awesome emerging from the New York area. If you loved the current David Byrne / St Vincent album, you may already recognise some of the horn sounds, and if you have recently opened up Back to Black you may have also been listening to some Antibalas stars. Chuck in TV on The Radio, Easy Star All-Stars and countless others and you start to get an audio picture of what might happen if you put all these people together.
When everything comes together like that, it's this inspiring, visceral feeling that I can't really describe. It's like a perfect typographic layout, or an awesome CSS code, a spoonful of honey, but you get to dance and scream to it. Which I did.
It was a bit of a shame the venue isn't really suited to the sound, a lot of the vocal impact was projected up into the cavernous ceiling space and didn't always connect, but sheer energy came through in bucketloads. I recommend getting along to see them if you can. I imagine the Melkweg show in Amsterdam will have been perfect. I love that venue.
One thing that niggled me a bit at the time and I can't decide about; they played two Fela songs at the end of the show. People have always done tributes to great musicians who have inspired them, but I feel a bit uncomfortable about the way any afrobeat band I've seen has so blatantly referenced the great man. I can't really think of another genre that's been so completely defined by one person, and I think it's a bit of a dis-service to the creativity that continues in bands like Antibalas, Ariya, London Afrobeat Collective. These groups are taking the inspiring sounds of the 70s and pushing them forward with new layers of tonality, new beats, new styles. I'm not saying they're better or that I enjoy the current bands more (although sometimes...), but I kind of feel like they pull themselves back when they bring up the past. I don't understand.