9 May 2018

Adekunle Gold goes on Trace Live

For fans with one eye on the love life of Adekunle Gold, one mystery was answered this past Friday.
In between songs at the third edition of Trace Live, Adekunle Gold read out tweets displayed on a large screen, and it was unsurprising to see someone from the platform ask about his relationship with Simi. "That's my baby," he responded.

That’s an end to that then.

For fans of the music, the concert provided an opportunity to hear unreleased tracks off his forthcoming About 30 album; it was a chance to listen to older songs from the artist played live. The session presented an opportunity to see how the man who made a career out of a loser persona has changed since he entered the Nigerian consciousness with ‘Sade’, a song about romantic rejection.

From evidence presented at the concert, the new album isn’t based on such songs of personal sorrow—and why should it? Adekunle Gold has remade himself as a hero of modern traditional music with interesting fashion choices.

By performing at Trace Live, he was succeeding Flavour as headliner. The Igbo highlife act had projected the sex appeal familiar to fans of his music videos. Adekunle Gold, by contrast, radiated a more muted charisma, creating a less charged atmosphere, and interacting with members of his 79th Element band as much as with the live audience. He talked about his father calling him Mr Foolish; he also talked about his songwriting, about how much of it could be from a stray line read somewhere.

Part of the revelations on the night included his having aspirations of studying animation abroad in search of success, a dream that fans of his music must be thankful didn't come true. Instead Adekunle Kosoko got signed to Olamide’s YBNL label, released a video for ‘Sade’, and the rest is part history and part ongoing tale.

The performance went on  smoothly, although on occasion it felt like there were too many interludes, as though Adekunle Gold had transferred his chatty Twitter self to the Terrakulture stage.

"Don't lie. Are you enjoying the album?" he asked upon concluding a song. A chant in the affirmative rang out.

Part of the appeal of watching an artist sing live is learning what changes to a song might happen. Adekunle Gold's style is to first allow for familiarity to sweep his audience, then he begins to unravel that familiarity with incremental alterations to the instrumentation. Bits from other songs are then added on, and by the end, audience, singer and band are dancing. The effect of all of this dancing is a kind live music democracy, in which it is hard to tell if the onstage leader is Adekunle Gold or any member of his 79th Element band.

On the night, the best song performed was ‘Work’, which was redone with more drum effects, syncopations and borrowed bits from Fela and Lagbaja. It provoked the loudest applause on the night. For all of the novelty of the newer unheard songs, they could hardly stand the force of familiarity of songs like ‘Pick Up’. Backed by his band and the sheer force of success, the man transformed that particular song into something of a victory tune. To close, Davolee was invited onstage for a delightful rap before the session closed with ‘Ire’.

"I promise you this album is good,” Adekunle Gold said. “It is great actually."

We'll see, but it was hard to disbelieve him.

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