Live review

Prom 16: Angélique Kidjo

Prom 16: Angélique Kidjo
(Royal Albert Hall. Review by Sebastian Scotney/Pictures by Mark Allan)

Angélique Kidjo before the headdress comes off (Photo: Mark Allan/BBC)

To bop or not to bop. That is the question. For the people down there in the Royal Albert Hall arena it’s clearly a no-brainer. Angélique Kidjo’s band on stage is one hell of a dance machine… these folks are all standing up anyway… and by the end of the first number, Cucala, also the opener of her new album Celia, the whole space is promptly transformed into a joyous mosh-pit.

For those of us in the seats surrounding the arena, however, things to begin with are more complicated. The music is saying get up and dance. Angélique Kidjo is ordering us constantly to do so. But we’re wondering whether to suffer the slings and arrows (well, angry stares) of the outrageously fortunate but quite elderly couple in the seats behind us. And ‘nobler in the mind’ doesn’t actually get you anywhere: Angelique Kidjo leaves us in no doubt: she is herself dancing non-stop, and she is totally single-minded with her mission to be in charge of a massive dance party. She is an irresistible force, and she ain’t giving up any time soon.

Angélique Kidjo with Roberto Fonseca (Photo: Mark Allan/BBC)

The official photos from Mark Allan and the BBC tell the story of how Kidjo kept on lifting the temperature. The theme of Kidjo’s new album is the inspiration of Celia Cruz and Cuban music, notably as a part of the melting-pot of New York. So there were a couple of brief appearances by Roberto Fonseca, somewhat underused in the role of sideman. There was a big moment for Senegalese percussionist Magatte Sow who brings the phrase “talking drum” unforgettably to life, And then there was a walkabout episode during the number Afirika, during which Kidjo had the whole audience (even if we didn’t actually know it) singing in Haitian Creole. And, all doubts finally cast aside, we were all dancing as well.

Angélique Kidjo on walkabout (Photo: Mark Allan/BBC)

AngŽlique Kidjo invites ten audience members on stage (Photo: Mark Allan/BBC)

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