By Ayeni Adekunle
I saw Falz perform for the first time last Friday night.
It was at Afropolitan Vibes, on the same stage I’d seen Ill Bliss, Burna Boy, Ade Bantu, Immaculate, Pat Thomas and others.
In fact it was Pat Thomas, the gentleman from Ghana who opened this month’s gig, with something not-fit-to-be-called a performance.
When Falz – with his trademark suspenders and glasses – stepped out, it was as if a saviour had come to rescue us from some sort of hostage. The crowd surged forward. The ladies screamed. Falz made the M.I signature pose, looked round, gripped his microphone firmly with his left and said the words.
‘If you’re excited to see Falz the Bahd Guy make some noise.’
The response was so wild he had to ask,‘It’s like you’re drunk on palm wine tonight.’
By the way, make sure you read all that in ‘Falz-speak’
Of course it’s not the first time I’m seeing a Nigerian rapper in full audience control. I’m used to seeing M.I, the diminutive but extra-confident rapper do it from Lagos to Owerri and Uyo.
I’ve seen Olamide, game changer and hardest working man in Hip Hop, do it. Twice in Enugu, I’ve watched with my mouth wide open, as Phyno, a lanky, shy and upcoming rapper, begged fans to ‘calm down, calm down’ as they grabbed the lyrics from his lips and screamed his name without ceasing.
The first time I saw Falz in person, it was backstage at MC Abbey’s show, at The MUSON centre in Lagos. He’s not that guy you see on Instagram. As he exchanges banters with Princess the comedienne and greets Tee A respectfully, I imagine this is a rising entertainer working his way up. He appears shy, reserved.
When I got feedback about his performance the day after, it was that he put in work and connected with the audience.
When someone else analysed his performance to me last month, it was, to put it in the lady’s words, ‘far better than Adekunle Gold’.
If you ask me how Falz’s performance went last Friday, what will I say? I’ll tell you it was the show of a maestro; the show of a man who knows how to own a stage. The show of a ‘bahd’ guy.
While Thomas’s set appeared like a poor rehearsal, Falz spent every minute bonding with the fans, rollicking with the band and apparently enjoying himself. Concentrating more on strings and percussions, the Bantu band made his job easier, as did the back up singers who did a great job.
The fans, singing along to ‘Karishika’, ‘Marry Me, ‘Ello Bae’, and more, reciprocated, jumping and wailing and singing and dancing. When he stops the music to have a chat or dole out some of his CDs, the crowd responds the way you would expect Wizkid fans to. The way you would expect Mo Hits era D’banj fans to. The way you would expect Olamide fans to.
How did Falz move so rapidly from an Instagram star to such a powerful stage man who’s getting fans to eat from his palms? Wait, how did Phyno – barely known two years ago – suddenly become a crowd puller and fan pleaser? How has Olamide become, in half a decade such a monster in the studio and on stage?
How are these young men rocking live bands and making meaning out of pop performances when many older colleagues are still asking the DJ for ‘track 2’?
Someone predicted that a future would come when we will all be rescued from the mediocrity we’ve had to live with. Is it possible that future is here? Is it possible Falz is one of the saviours?
Since we lost D’banj to controversy and drama and distractions, we’ve been longing for another superstar thriller that’ll combine star power and substance and skills. Would that person be Falz?
That would be a yes, if I’m to judge by his performance last Friday; if I’m to judge by Stories That Touch.
A yes from me, if I’m to judge by how I saw the fans lose it at Afropolitan Vibes where he owned the night until Salawa Abeni came and stole it away.
We’ll talk about Salawa and ‘Waka’ and how I almost ended up dancing on stage some other time.