Mr Eazi’s Nigerian homecoming turned out to be a stage for everyone else to shine

The first African Leg of Mr Eazi's Detty World Tour

Mr Eazi said the above to an eager fan on twitter, who like the crowd at Fela’s New Afrika shrine, is waiting in anticipation for him to open the show. This isn’t just any old concert, this is the first African Leg of Mr Eazi’s Detty World Tour,  and his first Nigerian concert since the one in December 2016. People are eager to see the showman he has become.

Everyone has their idea of what Fela’s shrine represents, nothing quite matches what you actually find when you get there. You’re first welcomed by a horde of guys –which may or may not weird you out– milling around the entrance, taking a drag, some selling and hawking snacks & aphrodisiacs, others discussing or pacing around in social groups. They are quite distinct from the people who have gathered for Mr Eazi’s concert, set apart by their finery.  There are entry tickets selling at the venue’s entrance with two built men checking to see if you have one before access. The ticket does what it says, ‘entry only’, everything else you want at the Shrine –including chairs– you pay for out of pocket. On a stage not so far away, where you have pictures of the Kuti’s, some Fela monuments, a booth with DJ Spinall boldly written on it; lightweight-near-anonymous acts take turns to sing or rap, as informal openers for the headlining acts who will come hours later. Die hard concert goers already know this like scripture, they’ll arrive at midnight, when the party is in full swing. I am here for work, so I find a way to pass the time.

Fela’s New Afrika shrine

The Shrine has always been a banana republic, where every man fends for himself. Doesn’t take long before I mark out my territory and guard it jealously against the late comers angling for a better vantage point. A man aggressively pulls at my chair, bawling that people have to pass. Meanwhile it’s 10pm, the performers on stage have sort of agreed to ignore the unresponsive audience and what sounds like a one-man applause. In our own world beyond the stage, a woman with impaired hearing begs for money with a written note, a cripple passes you by, a hawker thrusts stick of suya in your face trying to stare you down into buying. It is surreal that we all feel at home here, even the millennials live tweeting on their Twitter and Instagram pages. We are united by our desire for a transcendental musical experience and three hours in the anointing was yet to fall. But we had the promises of a high-spirited hype man to hold on to: “Yeah Yeah, Mr Eazi in Lagos”, he says. “Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s smoking or drinking, continue, tonight will be a special one”. When he says this, I’m reminded of Mr Eazi who in June, was appointed an ambassador of tobacco free Nigeria.

Falana performing 

Indeed, the special night begins when Falana graces the stage to perform at midnight. The crowd is not at the peak of their excitement yet, but are warm and welcoming towards her. She wears a Lisa Folawiyo two piece set and instructs the instrumentalists on musical progressions to follow. This is the beginning of what you could deign to call a performance. Falana brings a difference in her musical style, without a discernible accent or influence, like the rest of her.  Ajebutter and Boj perform their 2013 hit single “Omo Pastor” next. It’s just now people have their hands up cheering in the air; it’s like they just remembered what camera phones were made for too.

Ajebutter performing “Omo Pastor” with Boj

Jaywon performing “Odun Yi”

As if to get us into peak consciousness, there’s now a single man on stage, who squats and begins singing. Lights and eyes are focused on him. He croons everyone’s favourite song of his, “Odun Yi”, with no instruments or song playing in the background, bringing nostalgia of 4 years back at 12:30 midnight. Jaywon brings excitement because he signals a change in gear, the transition from opening acts to the evening’s headliners. The crowd is relieved to not have to wait anymore. The hypeman never walks far away as he often comes back in-between and during performances with his short guttural sounding tag line used to pep people up. Of course, he reminds us of Mr Eazi’s presence again as Terry Apala takes the stage with his Fuji refix of “Shape of You”. Anyone who has been photographing Terry does him well to make his small profile discrete. His small stature stands out next to the even slender hypeman, the two are playfully entertaining on stage as Terry switches to “Feel Me”. Half the whole show’s performance is the instrumentalists and the hype man, Spanky Manolo.

Up close with Niniola - The Native
Niniola performing “Maradonna”

By 1:00, what had started as a humdrum experience had swelled into an immobile enthused throng at the sight of Niniola gracing the stage. You are struck by her poise and that smile and her laugh. Part of what makes Niniola an exhilarating performer is her stage presence. She seems to encompass the entire stage as she delivers jiggling dances, as people’s gazes remain locked. When Niniola gives the mic to a fan to perform the song we’ve all been waiting for, our fear is it’s going to be ruined. But it’s washed away when we see her time on stage is the most interactive. She and the fan give a sultry performance of “Maradona”. Audience applause reaches its peak at this point and doesn’t die down even through the next act, Small Doctor.

Small Doctor’s music is energetic as well as his performances. He enters with his classic catchphrase ‘Hain’ and fans are jumping and cheering with him as he sings “Gbera”, hails Agege, takes off his jacket and performs “Penalty”. The crowd is bouncing right in front and his humility as he performs will get at an uninterested person. When you weigh in with the typical person you’ll find at this venue, Small Doctor is that friend of everyone that brings joy and everyone lauds him like a man of the people. In the spur of the moment, we are made to forget all of the heavy Lagos flood and just…focus.

Small Doctor performing “Penalty”

This is what happens when you have two people who know how to move a crowd. Small Doctor and Niniola pause for some effect from the audience when they are at it because they know they need not even sing again, the audience will take over; it’s excitement at the apex of a pyramid. Why did you come and what did you come to do if you didn’t witness these moments? –You’ve missed out on the core of an entire night’s event because all that will happen next is a diminishing marginal utility curve– Oh yes, you’re here for Mr Eazi.

It’s 1:21 when DJ Spinall’s booth finally has him in it because he’ll only play for the headliner who no one will confirm, deny, or explain that that’s what he’s actually here for. The Hypeman gives him a significant mark of arrival. And this is how DJ Spinall will remain a memorable part of our night. He has always understood the concept of branding. To avoid withering in the unacknowledged place many Nigerian DJs and producers do, DJ Spinall plays tracks reminiscent of a decade’s past, like Wizkid’s “Holla at your boy” and Tuface’s “Only Me”, hyping up the crowd as a precursor to Mr Eazi’s entrance at 1:35 AM.

Mr Eazi performing “In the Morning”

The applause is loudest when Mr Eazi appears. He graces the stage with his dance crew, a particularly cool trumpeter, Queensly(sic), and live band members, who he had practiced earlier in the day with. However momentum stalls as he takes time to teach the audience the lyrics to the lesser known songs off  the Accra to Lagos Mixtape. Earlier, we were brimming in excitement for a musical experience of the biggest name in town, now, some of us will spend the first Eazi hours struggling to remain engaged but we remain seated in faith because Mr Eazi is promising and has a prowess for showmanship. But Mr Eazi isn’t a vocalist. His presentation is in twofold, the first half feels like a spoken word session and we slink into the second half after Mayorkun and Lil kesh come to save us from near-drowning in drowse. It turns out our headliner still has many voice lessons in his future if he is going to excel as a live vocalist. Later in the evening, he switches things; performing what appears to be tunes more people now recognize enough to sing along with, like “Alakaida Dance”, “Leg Over” and “Skin Tight”. The best is believed to be saved for the last, just like the evening’s chase after Mr. Eazi, the biggest name in town. Shortly before it clocks 3 A.M, people are now trooping out of the shrine in droves. “He seems to be overrated” one guy says to another. “No, his performances are just laid back”, says the other guy.

Yeah, to a fault.

Featured Image Credit: Twitter/Mr Eazi

Images: Censodd for Native

Fisayo is a journalist who thinks writing is hard and reading too. But her journey somewhere reveals, words are like pawns on chessboard when writing. She wants to see, create and share with the world, experience & communicate these experiences. Tweet at her @fisvyo

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