That’s how long Asa made Lagos- and Nigeria,- the land of her birth, wait for a major headlining concert befitting her status as Nigeria’s premiere vocalist and performer.
From her Paris base, Nigeria’s biggest music export not named Kuti touches down once in a while to promote whatever studio album she is selling at the moment. There have been three of them, so far. Three magnificent discs that have kept her songs on the lips of Nigerians and her artistic bonafides untouchable among music lovers.
Sure, she’s been known to perform a couple of songs at events like The Future Awards Africa and the Etisalat Prize for Literature ceremony, as well as other private gigs that can afford her services, but for the bulk of her professional life, Asa is on the road, touring the globe, performing, and making new music.
Two hours, twenty minutes.
That’s how long Asa made Lagos wait to see her live. The consensus among the organisers seemed to be, ‘’If you can wait 9 years, surely two more hours should go by in a breeze.’’ Not exactly so, especially for folks who came to the Eko Hotel & Suites venue expecting world class standards in everything from planning to execution. To make up, opening acts Bez Idakula, Kaline, Isaac Geralds and Rachel Kerr were invited to open for her. All fantastic artistes and performers in their own right, but the intermissions went on for way too long with too much dead space in between.
The event, announced as the Lagos leg of her Bed of stone tour was to be recorded live for a DVD event and so after waiting forever it seemed, for those Lagos big boys and girls, the ones who never come early for anything, to fill up the front seats, lucky folks were upgraded to VVIP status and soon it was showtime.
All was forgotten (and forgiven) the moment Asa was ushered on stage. The sheer energy and star wattage she brought with her was enough to send the audience into volunteering a standing ovation before she even opened her mouth.
Dressed in one of those funky, wing tipped Iconic Invanity outfits she likes to wear, complete with high heels that she was soon to lose in moments, Asa opened with Awe, a spiritual mellow evocation, off her debut album. The impatient Lagos audience, for once was not about to sit in their seats and act all stuck up. No, these ones sang along and worshipped with her word for word, note for note.
The mesmeric trance of Satan be gone followed shortly and anybody with common sense knows the devil is not exorcised while sitting disinterested on concert seats. For the next two hours, Asa zipped through her impressive discography, starting with material from her latest album Bed of stone, before reaching far back to audience favourites like Bibanke, Jailer and Fire on the mountain. The crowd at this point was ecstatic.
Asa started tentatively at first as she studied her audience, each minute that went by had her easing into her flow even as she soaked up the pure joy and love she was getting. Asa grew more comfortable and more daring; singing, dancing, emoting, and performing like the crowd had every reason to expect.
The sound, put together by Reveal sounds and acoustics was explosive, perhaps too explosive as Asa’s vocals were occasionally drowned by her 5 man band- including backup singer/manager, Janet Nwose. Asa played both guitar and trumpet and sang the hell out of an enveloping performance of Bamidele. You know you have entered rarefied territory as a Nigerian artiste when your entire discography is instantly recognisable by your audience and for Asa, every single song was a hit, back to back, as her audience gave as good as they got.
Some of the songs got a new lease, like the fiery rock splash of Preacher man, the dramatic soul of Society and the traditional grove of So Beautiful . Plus surely you haven’t lived yet until you have joined an auditorium full of people to sing along heartily to the timeless state of the nation address that is Fire on the mountain.
She called on regular contributor Cobhams Asuquo to join her for an understated cover of Beyonce’s Halo as well as a duet of her 360 from her debut album.
Asa’s voice came through clear but the best thing about her set was her band; the chemistry, the cohesion, the electric guitar dude and the impeccable control Asa exerted over everything and everyone.
She did not give everything, no, there was always something of her that was held back but the audience took in as much as she was willing to give and gave her everything in return.
That’s how long Asa took to establish her artistry as an experience, one to be seen and branded as a lifetime event. The French may have their Paris and the rest of the world may own Asa for most of the year, but for one night, she came home to Lagos, where she will always belong.
Forget Paris, see Asa live in concert, and die.
– Wilfred Okiche