As he’s the figurehead of Nigerian Afrobeats, it feels appropriate that D’Banj’s debut UK headline show takes place on the final day of the Notting Hill carnival. Alongside the usual dancehall and soca, a good proportion of the anthems that fuelled this year’s sound systems and floats are the hits that have propelled the rise of Afrobeats in the UK: Atumpan’s The Thing, Ice Prince’s Oleku and, of course, D’Banj’s own Oliver Twist, a song of such popular reach that it even made it on to EastEnders.
Keeping that carnival spirit going is D’Banj’s MO tonight, as is that of a significant proportion of the audience, who have hotfooted it down the road from the carnival. As an entertainer, D’Banj treads the line between suave and rambunctious with ease: his dapper yellow-lapelled blazer is swiftly shed as he starts to rival his own dancers in snake-hipped, low-grinding ability, and the gold chain follows as he plunges off stage for a spot of crowd-surfing. By the show’s climax, D’Banj is half-naked and essaying moves that seem to refer mostly to the title of his forthcoming album, Mr Endowed.
After a late entrance compounded by technical difficulties leaves the crowd slightly restless, D’Banj may feel putting that level of work in is necessary – but it transpires that the music does the trick just as well. “This is not a fluke,” he announces midway through the show, perhaps mindful that not everyone present is aware of his seven-year career before Oliver Twist. Tonight, though, his older material goes down almost as well, from the call-and-response of Why Me to the lovelorn Scapegoat, and D’Banj bridges the gap between his more lilting, organic songs and his recent tougher, trancier dance-floor anthems with ease. His between-song patter has a tendency to ramble, but the show’s culmination in Oliver Twist is stellar proof that an international hit can be engineered with ease if based around a resonant, inarguable statement such as “I like Beyoncé”.
Written by Alex Macpherson for The Guardian,