After releasing the biggest Afrobeats song of 2020, Wizkid’s decade-plus career has finally led him here: to the coveted The O2. Most artists dream of selling it out once, let alone three times over in under 15 minutes – but considering the Nigerian star has dropped a flawless album like ‘Made In Lagos’ it all makes sense.
Walking into The O2, it feels akin to the Black Met Gala, everyone dressed in their finest threads to see the Starboy. The party is kicked off by DJ Tunez, and with plenty of Afrobeats hits and throwback reggae up his sleeve, it’s clear even from the beginning that tonight is the night to celebrate African excellence. Welcoming Wizkid to the stage is also a duty left to his collaborator. “It’s that time. Time is of the essence,” Tunez quips, referencing the artist’s Billboard smash ‘Essence’. With phone lights in the air, the arena erupts into a loud roar as a sea of light-up wristbands burn red and green for opener ‘Joro’. Slow and sombre, Wizkid caresses his mic stand as he serenades the huge room.
From here, the momentum rarely lets up, as he reels off hit after hit, intertwining highlights from “album of the year” ‘Made in Lagos’ (again, an aside from DJ Tunez) with cult cuts like ‘Don’t Dull’, ‘Come Closer’ and ‘Caro’. Still, the crowd’s loudest for tonight’s succession of unexpected guests: UK legend Skepta helps out on the summer belters ‘Longtime’ and ‘Energy (Stay Away)’, and calling back to each other, the pair have real camaraderie on stage. No wonder their collaborations reap such hysteria.
As the crowd is submerged in emerald light, all roads lead to ‘Essence’ – but as the hit single fills the place, the reception seems slightly muted. Still, the crowd still enjoys the performance — it’s a packed, sold out crowd, no doubt – and rising Afro-R&B star Tems has great presence as she joins the show, drops her long trench coat and enjoys herself with Wiz.
And the shrills of concert-goers grow even louder as Wizkid brings out his “big surprise” – the American singer and rapper Chris Brown. He’s welcomed to a loud chorus of people singing his latest hit ‘Go Crazy’ back to him – and unfortunately, tonight also gifts Brown his first performance in UK for over a decade amid multiple serious allegations of violence against women. It’s a stilted moment, and Brown doesn’t do much other than dance at the end of the stage, barely acknowledging Wizkid.
Things pick back up with ‘Ojuelegba’ however. It’s the perfect conclusion to Wizkid’s display of Nigerian excellence as the whole room joins in— with power and conviction — with this coming-of-age tale about making it out of his hometown of Ojuelegba. Green and silver confetti is injected into the sky (representing the Nigerian flag colours of green and white), and it’s a heart-warming moment during a song that has helped many through tumultuous times.
In tonight’s closing moments, though, you still yearn for more. With all the hits smashed one after another, there’s no room to get bored, but it doesn’t leave its audience feeling much closer to Wizkid. While a moment of silence held for the late fashion and cultural icon Virgil Abloh shows a more reflective side, there’s less direct connection with the crowd elsewhere. Despite the amazing community enjoying the moment at the O2, it occasionally leaves you wanting to see more of the personality that brought them together tonight in the first place.