Bands and African artists team-up for Africa Exprez
The bands and visiting artists came face to face at Liverpool’s Olympia theatre as part of the Africa Exprez evening.
The collective, whose leading members include Damon Albarn, have organised two previous gigs – including a take over of the Park Stage at last year’s Glastonbury festival – that have encouraged African and Western artists to collaborate together with little or no preparation.
The show opened with every drummer in the building joining in for a jam, before The Magic Numbers’ Romeo and Michelle Stoddart teamed-up with guitarist and vocalist Amadou And Mariam for ’Love Is Just A Game’.
Damon Albarn then made his first appearance of the evening introducing drummer Tony Allen, who joined the African pair.
Hard-Fi then followed, with Amadou And Mariam again joining in on ‘We Need Love’, before the Staines band played a short set including ‘Hard To Beat’ and ‘Suburban Knights’ which saw French-Algerian vocalist Rachid Taha sharing vocals, after which they were all joined by oud player Mehdi Haddab as they covered The Cure’s ’Killing An Arab’ at their guest’s request.
Reverend And The Makers then provided another high, performing ’Heavyweight Champion Of The World’, ’Sundown On The Empire’ and ’Open Your Window’ with a full cast of guest musicians – many in traditional robes – on drums, traditional fiddles and vocals.
The Makers rhythm section then backed famed African singer Baaba Maal, who was also joined by Albarn on melodica.
The highlight of the evening came with Franz Ferdinand’s set.
Opening with ’Take Me Out’ at Maal’s request, the African singer duetted with Alex Kapranos while his band backed the Scots as they played brand new song ’Can’t You Let Me Stay Tonight’.
The track was so new, it was in fact the first time the band had ever played it live – let alone with collaborators – and Kapranos even told NME.COM the title is yet to be confirmed.
They then wrapped up their set with an epic version of ’The Outsiders’ which saw Albarn joining them on piano.
Other notable moments included The Aliens filling the stage with as many musicians as they could find and Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly forcing the party on late into the night with a raucous cover of Hot Chip’s ’Over And Over’, which boasted guest spots from Nitin Sawhney and singer Eliza Doolittle.
Meanwhile the likes of Gnarls Barkley’s ’Crazy’ and Gorillaz’ ’Dare’ were among the other tracks reinterpreted throughout the evening by the visiting musicians, ahead of an all star version of The Clash‘s ‘Rock The Casbah’.
For more on the Africa Exprez gig and interviews with the key bands, get next week’s issue of NME on UK newsstands from March 12.