BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
African musician Angélique Kidjo’s electrifying interpretation of the Talking Heads iconic album “Remain in Light” was a thrilling moment for those in attendance to experience at her concert Friday night at the UC Theatre in Berkeley.
Kidjo, a 57 year old three time Grammy Award winning Beninese singer-songwriter and activist has collaborated with some of the best known artists and bands on the earth. Inspirations from the world of music include Fela, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Santana. She has performed or recorded with Dave Matthews, Peter Gabriel, Ziggy Marley and Bono, just to name a few.
Her latest project is covering the 1980 Brian Eno produced masterpiece in it’s entirety. Augmented by a five piece band and three piece rhythm section, the propulsive beats and riffs from the album were presented with an eclectic touch enhanced by Kidjo’s worldly influences and powerful vocals. Featuring instantly recognizable classics such as “Crosseyed and Painless,” “Once In A Lifetime,” and “Houses In Motion, ”the songs were performed out of sequence from the original release to maximize Kidjo’s storytelling during the 90 minute set.
Addressing topics as relevant today as when “Remain in Light” was originally released nearly 40 years ago, issues such as the war on drugs and the police exerting excessive force against minorities continue to be controversial themes to this day. Speaking briefly on social injustice, at one point Kidjo commented on how the Me Too movement has to continue and needs to be expanded to include “Mother Earth.”
The setlist was enhanced by an additional handful of cuts from Kidjo’s catalog including the energetic “Pata Pata,” and on two separate occasions she and her band disappeared from the stage only to quickly reappear on the theatre floor to lead a dance party thru the crowd on the two lower levels of the hall during the song “Afrika” and again during “Seen And Not Seen.”
Closing the set by inviting about a dozen random members of the audience to engage in a free-flowing dance fest with her and the band onstage during “Tumba,” Kidjo’s spirited performance included a guest appearance by Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison and culminated in a rousing rendition of the Heads epic “Burning Down The House” as a fitting final encore.
Kidjo’s North American tour concludes Saturday night in Los Angeles before resuming for a series of shows in the UK and Europe starting May 28th. Her version of “Remain In Light” is scheduled to be released on June 8th.