Imagine going to a concert you saved up to buy tickets for, you stand for hours and hours, and finally your favourite artist comes out at 2am, only to jump around on stage, yelling and spraying water on your fit, while their track plays in the background. They do this for a total of 30 minutes, accompanied by terrible dj’ing and that’s it. Just imagine that.
Earlier this week, disgruntled concert goer and Ghanian artist, Akuvi took to TikTok to express her frustrations with the poor performance of some afrobeats artistes at Afronation 2022. After attending day 1 of Afronation, she described some of their sets in a way that is familiar to most of their fans back home. This was also followed by some clips of the terrible performances circulating the Twitter streets. This TikTok however sparked an intense conversation on social media about these artists and their tendency to give lazy performances similar to what Akuvi described. We saw Rema, Omah Lay and even Bnxn (fka Buju) responding to the backlash they had received.
In all fairness, the feedback from the artists regarding their performances were similar. They were apparently not allowed to do sound check and the sound was indeed bad. From the clips available online, you could tell that some artists were probably struggling to hear themselves over their tracks. These were circumstances beyond their control. That said, the fans have still raised valid points and questions. As most people have previously attended concerts of some of these artists, there is an underlying issue of sorts. Many do not believe these artistes even care enough to put on a good show for their paying audience.
There is already a general belief that afrobeats artistes put on better shows abroad. The general expectation of a concert in Lagos is really low. The artistes usually get on stage around 2am, spend most of their set yelling or prompting several call and response moments and letting the track play while they jump around or even mumble. This has been concert culture in Nigeria for the past 6 years on average. However, as many have seen, concerts abroad tend to be better: Better organized, better produced and an all-round better experience. Wizkid’s 3-night concert at the O2 and Burna Boy’s performance at Madison Square Garden are prime examples of great concerts by mainstream afrobeats artists. These are performers who have had people waiting for nearly 5 hours at their Lagos concerts in the past.
It may seem a bit crazy to compare these concerts because for one, staging a concert in a country with functioning systems and facilities is probably easier. Spaces like the O2 and Madison Square Garden are properly optimized for concerts, so it would be hard to mess up in such an environment – everything is set up to work. However, this conversation goes beyond the venues and facilities. How poorly organized a concert is, is one thing, but the artistes’ attitude is another. They would not dare come out at 2am after gathering people for a 9pm performance in a foreign country. A precedent has been set in Nigeria that it is normal to be at a concert into the wee hours of the morning because the artiste has gotten on stage late. This precedent even creates safety issues for concert-goers. Nevertheless, there are musicians who put on good shows, despite technical difficulties and all. Artists like Adekunle Gold, The Cavemen, WurLD, Tiwa Savage and Asa have put on great shows back home, rich with music from live bands and beautiful aesthetics. These artists create magic when they perform; the infusion of storytelling, live bands, backup singers and even dancers. A sprinkle of featured acts here and there does not hurt.
Sometimes while you’re at a concert in Lagos, you can be scrolling on Instagram and see that the same artiste is scheduled to perform
Attending a concert can be a regretful experience, sometimes. Especially in this economy, where tickets range from 10k to 50k. In fact, I have personally grown to prefer watching concert livestreams rather than attending. These days it feels like we’re paying for artists to simply show up and play back their songs for us, which is underwhelming. A concert should feel like an experience – a moment for you to watch an artiste perform their songs with the vim they had while making the tracks. Fans aren’t just paying to see an artiste IRL; they are paying to be entertained. Artistes owe their audience timeliness, safety, good vibes and an entertaining show.