Wizkid’s heart is in Nigeria, but his second home is London. In anticipation of the singer’s sex appeal and authenticity, Wizkid superfans had lit up the sold-out Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with a constellation of phone flashes, almost half an hour ahead of his arrival. Warming up the crowd, his DJ plays Amapiano artist Asake and bellows into the mic: “Tonight is a celebration of Africa!”
The gig-goers are interspersed with begrudging Arsenal fans, making an exception to see the first and only African artist (so far) to perform at the venue. It’s the same stage that was graced by Beyoncé herself in May – it’s an almighty stage indeed.
Almost an hour later than expected, Wizkid does rely heavily on his supporting acts. Jamaican-American neo-soul artist Masego brings some much-awaited rockstar energy as he moonwalks, runs and spins on his back under a spotlight. He delights with his anthemic love song ‘Tadow’ and its signature saxophone refrain. Wade Cole and King Promise follow on from him, to take us back to Afrobeats in a spectre of smoke and mirrors.
When Wizkid finally does make his entrance, it’s spectacular, and to the sound of his shoutout accolade, “Starboy number one.” Starting with his hit song ‘Reckless’, he prowls around the stage against a backdrop of fluffy, hot tower clouds. The transition to ‘Jealous’ is paired with vermilion neon lights behind a mirror chamber, which creates a holographic effect that puts the orange moon outside to shame. Shadows mimic the silhouettes of the body rolling, white clad dancers and transport the audience into an effervescent dancehall. Despite the bare bones decoration, Wizkid sets the tone for a fluorescent night.
Excitement reaches fever pitch when the singer strolls to the front of the lava lamp stage, joining the dancers at the podium for ‘Ojuelegba’. Singing in a mix of Yoruba and English, the first half of the concert begins with tracks from his 2011 Superstar album, progressing to 2014’s Ayo and, finally, to a harmonic concoction of his newer hits, which include ‘Mood’, ‘Energy” and ‘Come Closer’.
Suddenly, Wizkid disappears. Chants of “Burna Boy” and the occasional “Tems” and “Skepta” ricochet throughout the crowd. The silence prompts hopes of a special guest, something which has become a highlight of Wizkid performances. Disappointment sets in when they realise that the pause was only a prolonged outfit change. He has metamorphosed from the Micheal Jackson-inspired look into a topless white fit, a Yoruba hat and his signature diamond chains. All hopes were sporadically dashed to the floor, just like his jacket. Can he continue to carry the crowd on his own?
Heat does pick up again in the second half with old favourites ‘Don’t Dull’ and ‘That’s My Baby’. A CGI image of a golden cobra, mouth agape, lunges towards the crowd, who are already injected with a venom of mid-tempo beats. “Tonight we’re gonna have a musical experience, we’re gonna do some very fun sh*t tonight,” he preaches. “Everybody say ye ye ye.” If there’s one thing about Wizkid, he’ll give us some ad libs.
Midway through, we get to hear ‘Ginger’. “Make I touch your body / Make I rub, make I love,” he coos as he twirls around the podium with his right hand stroking the air. Amidst the symphony of drums and chords, couples grind and smooch.
Flirting with the floor almost as much as his front row fans, the Nigerian musician was set on proving he can hypnotise first with his songs and second with his dancing. He takes every lyricless pocket to liquidly sway his hips while a kaleidoscope of LED lights casts the stage in the purple dye of his latest LP, More Love, Less Ego.
Wizkid’s recent work hasn’t been all the rage with some of his more diehard fans – some were jokingly offering to sell their tickets for £4 on Twitter. However, it has found a more alternative audience who approve of the sophisticated sound – slightly matured, but definitely not new. Perhaps aware of the criticism, his setlist instead leans heavily on his fourth studio album, Made in Lagos, as well as his discography of upbeat hits.
The pyrotechnics continued with a firework display during his smash hit ‘Essence’, saving the best for last. The audience was left drunk on Tems’ ultra smooth voice, while the star confidently observed at the side of the stage without making too much effort to sing live.
“I f***ing love you tonight, London,” he says, as he hurries into closing track ‘Joro’, a crowd favourite with a mononym chorus that feels like a slightly hollow choice to end his biggest UK show to date. We’re covered in yet another umbrella of fireworks, a seemingly anticlimactic afterthought. Is the show really over? People hover over their seats, unsure about an encore. There are murmurs of “Did anyone else feel underwhelmed?” and “I paid £90! Burna Boy was amazing – he knew how to keep a crowd.”
Despite Wizkid’s commitment to delivering high octave performances annually, perhaps he needs to let his fans miss him, if only a little. His most recent set at Glastonbury had a lukewarm reaction and, while lit with enough liquid flame effects and party tricks to entertain, he sometimes ended up feeling a bit more like a brilliant MC at a club rather than a headline act.
It’s difficult to ignore his true vocals, which are buttered in a layer of autotune that ground us back to cold commerciality and away from the raw talent we know he is. What Wizkid does show is good energy, a sonically pleasing delivery and a lively stage presence. If you’re a member of the Wizkid FC, let’s hope this is a sweet warm-up for his future stadium shows.