Angélique Kidjo Laxson Auditorium, Nov. 13
The African-born chanteuse Angàlique Kidjo sure made her powerful presence known, singing as she entered the Laxson stage from the rear, holding a wireless microphone in her hands. Her rich, supple voice rang through the auditorium, and visually she was riveting, with her creamy chocolate skin and ultra-short yellow hair and wearing a dazzling multi-colored floor-length skirt, black top and white leather jacket.
She sang four songs one after another, her crack five-piece band and female backup singer giving them weight and density and rhythmic bounce. One tune was from Togo, the country next to Kidjo’s native Benin. The second was from Brazil, the third from Cuba, the fourth from Haiti, and all were wonderful. But Kidjo didn’t say much, and I began to worry this was going to be awkward: great musicians, lousy audience rapport.
Not a chance. Kidjo, who sees herself as an international good-will ambassador, turned out to be quite a talker, enthusiastically sharing her love of people and telling stories about her travels. She was also someone with a magical ability to involve the audience in her music. By the time the night was over she’d done two things I’d never seen before in Laxson.
First she went down into the audience and while singing worked her way along the aisles and across the rows, getting the whole crowd, hundreds of people, on their feet and singing along and dancing in place. Then, back on stage, she invited everyone to join her there, and upward of 75 men, women and children did so, where they had a big and joyful dance party.
That was a sight: Everybody bouncing and swaying to this funky Afro-pop groove under the stage lights, as Kidjo worked her way among the bodies, sometimes disappearing from view altogether.
A couple of tunes later, she invited some women from Chico’s African dance troupe to join her, and next thing we knew she and they were shaking and flailing joyously to the pounding of the drums.
Afterwards, Kidjo wouldn’t let anybody leave the stage without giving her "hugs and kisses." This was more than a show. It was a love-in.