Walking into The O2, there’s a homogenous buzzing as a huge crowd dressed to the nines psyche themselves up for the multi-platinum selling Nigerian superstar Davido. Tonight marks the third time that an Afrobeats act has achieved the incredible feat of selling out one of London’s biggest venues, and he follows in the footsteps of fellow Nigerians WizKid and Burna Boy.
Ahead of Davido’s headline show, punters are treated to a celebratory Afrobeats party to mark the milestone, with DJ EDF and DJ E Cool spinning classic genre staples alongside overplayed pop-rap and hustle anthems. It all leads up to a grandiose entrance, with a plethora of stars – Not3s, S1mba, Shyne and Reekado Banks – performing ahead of the main attraction’s entrance. It’s just a shame that the spectacle isn’t visible everywhere, blocked out by an eyesore of a light-up box at the bottom of the stage. Most of these cameos are unfortunately hindered by technical issues and a heavy delay on the mics, though Reekado Banks and Not3s valiantly attempt to overcome them. The latter ends up singing his hit ‘Aladdin’ acapella in an attempt to appease the crowd while the sound team sort out the delay.
Following this heroes welcome, Davido eventually emerges from the inside of his slightly obstructive light box in a black sparkly three-piece suit, jamming with London-based instrumental band The Compozers for renditions of his older cult hits: the racing ‘Dami Duro’ and the heartfelt ‘Aye’. Without a backing track, and instead, a wailing guitar to sing the melodies (this is The Compozers’ USP), the crowd takes the reins in singing ‘Dami Duro’ in full as sound techs slide on their knees trying to fix Davido’s sound pack. That said, the star does make up for the poor sound quality with his larger-than-life performance; puffing out his chest with grandeur and falling to his feet for ‘Aye’.
The pace picks up for ‘Like Dat’, a stand-out moment drenched in blue lights. And after an outfit change, Davido – now clad in red, white, and blue – means business. “Are you ready to start the show now?” he asks. A conveyor belt of guests follow in quick succession: Nigerian rapper Zlatan [‘Killin Dem’] and British-Nigerian rapper JNR Choi [‘To The Moon’] both coming to the stage to inject some afro-drill party spirit into the night, before UK drill hitmakers Russ, Tion Wayne, and Ardee all come out to perform the global hit ‘Body’. The procession of cameos continues with US rising stars Yung Bleu and Capella Gray performing their own hits as well. At times, sound issues persist, and Gray’s ‘Gyallis Anthem’ is ear-shuddering and cloaked in heavy layers of delay.
It feels like Davido brings out near enough the entire world to feature in his one-night-only performance, not only pushing his beloved Afrobeats but the popular sounds of the UK as a whole. Perhaps the schedule might’ve benefitted from a couple of headline shows with different line-ups and more tightly curated set-lists, because running over by 34 minutes — and getting a hefty fine in the process — its current form feels slightly rushed.
Luckily enough, Davido himself proves to be quite the showman at the helm of this crazy circus of a night, and as things draw to an end, he brings out Jamaican legend Popcaan and Focalistic to close out the show. Jam-packed with all his hits past and present, it makes for a fast-paced but slightly bumpy ride.
‘All Of You’
‘Bad, Baddo, Baddest’
‘To The Moon (with JNR CHOI)
‘Ale Yi, Bolanle’ (with Zlatan)
‘Sweet In The Middle’
‘Confam, Abule’ (with Patoranking)
‘Je’Mapelle’ (with Darko Vibes)
‘Activate’ (with Stonebwoy)
‘ADA’ (with E Cool)
‘Bobo, Betty Butter, The Best’ (with Mayorkun)
‘Holy Father’ (with Mayorkun and Victony)
‘For You’ (with Tneni)
‘Baddest, Your Mines Still’ (with Yung Bleu)
‘Gyalis’ (with Capella Grey)
‘I Dunno (Intro), Who’s True’ (with Tion Wayne)
‘Body Remix’ (with Tion Wayne, Russ, and Arrdee)
‘Baddest Boy Remix’ (with Skiibi)
‘Blow My Mind’ (with Ckay)
‘LALA’ (with Ckay)
‘Risky’ (with Popcaan)
‘Only Man She Wants, Family’ (with Popcaan)
‘High’ (with Adekunle Gold)
‘Ke Star and Champion sound’ (with Focalistic)