Monday, August 13, 2012

Concert Review: Angélique Kidjo at Koerner Hall

Concert Review: Angélique Kidjo at Koerner Hall

14 March 2012 One Comment
By Anya Wassenberg
Angélique Kidjo cut a diminutive yet striking figure on stage at Saturday’s crowd pleasing show at Koerner Hall in Toronto. By the end, she had the house on its feet dancing to a lively performance lit up by her irrepressible energy and rich voice.
The crowd gave her a very warm reception from the opening, as she sang a traditional song while the band slowly filtered on stage. From her traditional vocal techniques of her native Benin, she flowed effortlessly into a smooth Afrojazz number; it was this versatile range that characterized her show. Kidjo’s voice is warm and powerful, and supple with a husky edge at just the right moments.

The show featured her varied repertoire, from sophisticated polyrhythmic jazz to swingy and melodic pop-flavoured tunes. Her back up band, consisting of bass, drum kit, percussionist and guitar, are polished and tight, contributing multi-part harmonies to her strong vocals. “If you feel like singing, do it. If you feel like dancing, do it too,” she said. With that invitation dancing bodies started to stand up from the second song.

Kidjo has a personable stage presence. Between songs she shared stories about her upbringing, like when she was shoved on stage at age 6 and caught the bug for performing. “I’m going to sing till I die,” she said to applause. When she’s not performing or recording, she devotes much of her time to various charities, and many of her songs are infused with the social messages that are near and dear to her. They include access to education for all the world’s children and supporting the ambitions of African girls.

These messages were wrapped in buoyant and melodic jazz with flashes of a singing West African guitar. In one, she became a simmering French chanteuse, and she described another song as based on a traditional rhythm she translated loosely as “the wind that breaks glasses”.

The crowd loved her and she loved us back by singing and dancing through the aisles. After that, she invited the audience on stage and it was soon packed with dancing bodies. She wouldn’t take no for an answer and had the rest of us on our feet too. Kidjo ended the night with a classic West African style jam and  came back for two encores. It was Ms Kidjo’s debut at the three-year old Koerner Hall and not likely to be her last.

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