We knew way before it started that this was going to be a great show. The afternoon she performed a full concert for WFUV, Angelique Kidjo and her four-piece band ran through a few songs on the City Winery stage to fine-tune the sound system before the audience came in. It sounded like a typical soundcheck, but I looked across the empty room to see that Kidjo was dancing her way through it, full-on.
Kidjo's music is completely contagious, with rhythms that sound like a complex combination of soul and Brazilian music, and that at the core reflect her West African roots.
Kidjo is from Benin, but she's become a musical citizen of the world. Her position as a world-music star gives her an important platform for her activism: She's been a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF for nearly 10 years, and has her own foundation to support higher education for girls in Africa. Her considerable energy comes through in her work and in her performances, which grab your attention right from the start. By the end of this show, Kidjo had danced her way through the audience and back up, pulling dozens of fans onto the stage to dance with her and the band.
This show mostly features songs from Kidjo's new album, Oyo, which pays tribute to the music she grew up listening to — both traditional African songs and mainstream soul and rock. Bono, John Legend and Dianne Reeves all make guest appearances on the record. At City Winery in New York, though, it was just Kidjo and her band — plus all the joyous new fans that could fit — on stage for WFUV.