Saturday 10 September 2016

Emmerson Live in London - A Review

Firstly, huge respect to all the artists who performed at the Royal Regency last night. and secondly my apologies... it wasn't your fault.

It was the night. I'd held my ticket for weeks and finally the evening was upon me.

Feeing in Emmerson mode..

I wanted to arrive with the show in full swing so left fairly late, (or so I believed). On arrival, I could have been forgiven for thinking it was 4pm in the day as opposed to 10pm at night. Others were equally just arriving, the lights were bright, and handing in a simple ticket took far longer than average. My my initial thought on taking a glimpse of the hall was...who's getting married?.

I could barely believe what I was seeing. to my left was a photographers booth for those who wanted to capture the evening on a brown leather sofa equipped with 'cheesy background', and ahead of me was a stage surrounded by beautiful cabaret style tables and seating. I was directed upstairs, as I hadn't paid for a table, so upstairs I went, feeling slightly relieved.
It wasn't what I was expecting.

As the night progressed and I continued to observe the selfies the preening the walking the eating, little dancing and very little music to speak of, I began to wonder if anyone else had noticed that it was 12 pm, and no artist had yet arrived on stage.

Finally, one man was kind enough to apologize for the lateness over the mic and reassure us that it wouldn't be long. He was mistaken.
Hours later.. and I was feeling edgy.

I text a friend.
"I'm starting to wonder who to complain to"
"they're gonna look at you like you're white" she said
"huh? well if wanting things done right and keeping to time and they wanna think that then fine.."

she laughed
but all jokes aside, I knew what she meant.
the night was a night for Sierra Leonians.. to be Sierra Leonian, and clearly, for many, that takes time.
Now personally, I understand laid back, I can do laid back with ease, but if that was a 'Caribbean reggae night', that level of complacency lateness and tardiness really wouldn't have been tolerated without words, or some kind of uproar... trust me, someone would have threatened to tun' ova sometin' ...

I could see in the faces of a few people around me that they were becoming equally frustrated but there was also an air of docility about it.
They seemed to know something I didn't, perhaps that thing was... relax...that to complain would be futile...

I was pleased when the compare came on, but it turned out he wasn't actually the compare at all, but a man presented to us.. to introduce the compare/s for the night. With two compares both enjoying the stage, they then proceeded to take up far more time than was necessary.
It was 1pm.

Amidst much anticipation, the stage show began. The band warmed up nice, yet it was clear that the sound quality and engineering were below par.

The 1st artist up was Matto, who was passionate and loud, yet had a story to tell and I liked her. The poor mic quality made it difficult to make out the names of all the artists or what was being said, so forgive me if I leave out a few names. Alonzo was up next and performed well; nice songs in a nice reggae vibe ( with his little jerky movements :)

Then we had Sugar Lulu, nice steady but lacking a little energy last night. However, her songs were well received.

Alim Kamara was excellent, and is a very talented performer, but again let down by the extremely poor sound quality. He was accompanied by the singer Khalid, who has an amazing voice, and it's a credit to him that he was able to edge slightly above the poor sound

The next artist I wasn't expecting and could barely make out his name, but turns out it was Usifu Jalloh, and he could very well have been the star stand out performer of the night for me. loved him.
For the 1st time, I began to feel the root. We were getting beyond the superficial to something far more meaningful. He took us to Sierra Leone. The lights were dimmed slightly for him, which created an aura around his performance. Clearly an accomplished artist and performer and with a roll call of awards to his name, he gave the audience a treat, with his storytelling ability and musical rendition of the history of West African music. It was fun , funny, engaging, heartfelt, and a real treat.

However... it was 2am , and the crowd had just sat through 5 warm up acts with the lights still blazing and yet still... no Emmerson.
As much as I enjoyed his performance I was relieved when it was over,
Yet to my astonishment the wait was not yet over for us, as the compare/s decided to take a 10 minute interval.
..'to rarse'....
was the jist of a text to a friend

On completion of the Interval we were treated to the two compares again, but now they were in full 'shout' mode. With both of them talking at the same time it was pretty much impossible to make out what was being said in full. 'Is god alone saved them two from being pelted wid piece a yam am sure.'.

Finally, 'Sugar Medicine' came on, and boy, did we need it. The lights went out and I was on my feet.
We now had a stage show.

I could barely contain my joy, in fact I didn't, like everyone else. Handsome Emmerson has style and presence in abundance, but even the talents of Emmerson could not disguise the lack of prep from the band and the very inadequate sound quality.

The promoter had reduced Emmerson to occupy the role of a 'Wedding singer.

There is nothing wrong with wedding singers, but come on... did he not.. know Emmerson?

I love 'survivor' so was pleased for him to start with that. A few glaring errors in terms of chord changes but I was past caring too much by that time. Unfortunately little could have saved this show from receiving anything other than a bad review.

In talking to a few guys, i'm informed that the promoter made a loss. No surprises there if he did. 5 warm up acts, a huge venue, and not enough people to fill it. There were quite a few empty tables downstairs, and at £100 per ticket you can perhaps understand why.
One didn't have to be an accountant to see that unless the venue hire was free and the artists performed for free, he (or she) would more than likely be facing a loss.

Perhaps the promoter didn't feel that Emmerson and supporting acts would be enough to get Sierra Leonean's to come out. I'm sure he's aware that in the main, Salone people like to 'dress and bloff' so perhaps he felt he had to appeal to the vanity over and above the love of music. and if that's the case, that would be a shame.

It would be a shame because Emmerson is a great artist, and more than capable of reaching the heights of other well known West African artists, but his quest was not aided last night. He will need to be promoted as an artist of the highest caliber, alongside others in his genre. Whilst many Sierra Leonians may see Emmerson as a reflection or representation of them, and in many ways he is, but in more ways... he is so much more.
Ultimately he is an artist, a singer and composer. his songs carry a message of love hope change and of struggles against oppression and injustice, themes which are universal.

So to present him in that setting as the promoter did last night was an outrage.

Despite it all, I enjoyed the night. I know the potential of the artists are great indeed. Over zealous mic men are funny to watch, but I paid to see the artists.
mess wid mi artist dem an yu mess wid me
Regardless, I made friends, am determined to invest in a good camera!, had a laugh and a dance, and yes..
Emmerson 'Sugar Medicine' still my No.1.

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