For some reason, I had never attended a Nigerian concert here in London until Wizkid came calling yesterday. A Couple of random thoughts on the event…
1. I have seen Neyo, John Legend and Hillsong at the HMV Apollo in the past so I know the sound at the venue is fine. Otherwise I might have been tempted to blame the venue for the poor sound. It started off well but then got worse as the evening went on especially at the times when there were a couple of people performing on stage at the same time. At that point it just became a lot of noise.
2. I think Wizkid himself is shy. He seemed to draw comfort from the crowd right in front of him in the front row and at some point it felt like he was performing for them alone. I’d say, just by sight, that there was a bigger crowd in the galleries but he never looked up once to acknowledge us (and yes, we paid much more than the people downstairs in front of him).
3. The tickets to the show were sold on Ticketmaster which is one of the world’s biggest ticket sellers. Essentially there was nothing stopping a random white guy who had never heard of Nigeria before, but looking for some fun, from buying a ticket and coming to find out what Wizkid was all about.
So, even though the crowd was probably 99% Nigerian, this was essentially a Nigerian export and should therefore conform to the standards of the market where it is being exported to.
4. Wizkid is popular; there is absolutely no doubt about that. He’s also got an army of adulating fans who will easily make him into a superstar. So that side of the equation is sorted. The missing bit is what he gives them in return through live performances. At this concert he had no backing singers or band. This is weird and meant that he was singing over a recording of his own songs (a big reason for the bad sound). You come to a concert because you want to hear the musician sing to you, anything less and you feel short changed.
The lack of backing singers or dancers also meant he couldn’t ‘own’ the stage like he should have when you have a whole team working for your success on the night. This will come with time I imagine but it’s something to work on immediately. People paid to come see Wizkid so the whole event should have revolved around him with a steady build up. As it turned out, Eddie Kadi was a godsend as he managed to hold the crowd entertained for well over 2 hours.
Basically a little bit of more planning won’t be a bad thing. It’s the Nigerian way and is fine for Nigeria I guess but this is now an export competing with various other exports.
It’s that final push that will get people to buy t-shirts, merchandise and anything else branded by the musician. Otherwise people might walk out feeling like they have already done enough for the artiste simply by turning up. And the tickets were not exactly cheap. By way of comparison, what I paid for one ticket to see Wizkid is roughly about what I paid for 2 tickets to see Anthony Hamilton recently.
5. The crowd was huge. Huge. Maybe the doors were let open towards the end but by the time he was rounding up, there was hardly any space to move in the galleries anymore. The crowd was also very very young so much so that I felt seriously old like I was there to chaperone the event.
I won’t pretend to know how the music industry works these days but having so many young fans looks to me like a whole bunch of people that can ‘grow up’ with the artiste possibly right up to the time when they are have more earnings to play around with. After all the reason why people like Boyz II Men are still singing is because people like me became their fans a long time ago and will continue to patronise them.
I like the kid and I hope he gets better on stage in concert. People really like him and what he represents so what’s left is what he decides to give his fans in return. Whatever it turns out to be, the Wizkid ‘experience’ needs to be developed for the stage so people can take that away with them when they pay to go see him in concert.
I think that when it comes to exporting Nigerian music, all the low hanging fruits have been plucked. The music is out there already on radio, iTunes and everywhere else. What’s left now is the hard bit – bringing it up to truly world class levels where it can easily compete with anything else out there. This is also where I think there’s serious money to be made; after all you can’t really pirate a concert experience…you either pay to attend or you don’t. In this regard, linking up with Akon is probably a very good thing.
5.5/10 but I will go see him again if he’s back in town. And yes, I’ll buy his next album too.