Thunderous baselines and massive percussion work flooded the River Stage at the beginning of Femi Kuti‘s set. Five members took to the stage to start, then grew to 12 before Kuti himself stepped up to helm the Hammond keyboard, joining in on the tremendous instrumental intro.
The eldest son of famed Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti played a role in each section of his backing band, the Positive Force, joining backup vocalists to sing and dance, donning the sax to join in the brass section, and playing the Hammond. Kuti would bounce around the stage frantically, spinning in a dizzying manner while singing “Nothing to Show For It,” and pointing and commanding the band throughout the set.
Many of the band’s tracks featured live were off Kuti’s latest record, One People One World, released earlier this year. Tracks like “How Many,” title track “One People One World,” and “Dem Don Come Again” drove the River Stage crowd to dance. The set contained no live banter in between songs to maximize the stage time. More often than not the band would take less than a breath in between songs, transitioning from one to the other in rapid succession.
Much like the band’s opening song, “Evil People” featured a bombastic percussion section. The winding track instrumentally soared and transformed into a barebones spoken-word outro, Kuti arriving at the phrase “evil people can never know true joy,” before calling on the backing band to close out the song. On the following track, Kuti himself delivered a masterclass in circular breathing while performing a droning saxophone section of “Corruption Na Stealing.” Impressive feats of musicianship like these were sprinkled throughout the set, certainly a highlight of the day for the River Stage crowd.
Check out pictures from the set and listen to an audio archive below.