When someone tells you to attend a concert, the last venue you’d think of is the National Theatre. Being there was the first notion of heading in a new direction for the Listen concert where five talented artists: Angela, Eli, Richy, Price Love and Vanessa, were to share a stage. Inside the theatre, the space looked cramped, but the set-up was neat and elaborate. The screens in the background were interesting enough. There were geometrically arranged stacks of boxes on either side of the projector screen, and when the light fell on them, gave a 3D appearance of images. The lights and sound was top notch. The concert kicked off with aplomb as all 5 amazing artists took the stage, sampling the audience with their impressive vocal ability.
First on stage was Angela with her elegantly dressed backup singers. They looked like they had just come from a glitzy dinner. Her voice was strong and commanding, but had enough gentle melody to convince you that you could indeed move mountains without breaking a sweat. Her style is reminiscent of energetic gospel worship leaders.
Richy seemed to be the favourite of the group, with his laid-back soulful style. The man can really hold a note. The way he sang and played guitar, with a smile on his face, made it look effortless, yet sublime. He mentioned that he had had some help in the studio from the celebrated Ugandan guitarist, Myko Ouma. The results were crystal clear.
Vanessa, the youngest of the group, was a pleasant surprise. She was comfortable in the limelight and delivered like she was born to sing. She wasn’t as flashy or energetic like the rest. But she had a calming, self-assured aura that was easily transmitted in her music.
Eli, whom the MC claimed can sing you to sleep and wake you right up with his guitar skills, was lively, scampering all over the stage. Yes, he could sing a variety of notes, but his guitar skills were more than adequate to keep up. He tried to get the crowd involved in singing along with him, but all efforts paled in comparison to him. The audience just cheered him on instead.
Price Love mellowed things down with her firm, gentle voice. She was the only one who sang some Luganda, which was a mind-jerking reminder that we were listening to Ugandan (or at least African) artists after all. Eli played guitar for some of her songs, and vocals as well. The teamwork on the song was joyous, to say the least. She was the least outspoken of the group. Even as she danced, she danced with a soft grace.
The theatre hall added a resonance in the music that I was not accustomed to, but got used to it as the concert went on. Most of the performances were held in dim blue light, with the smoke effects adding a mesmerizing feel to the music. Without focusing on the performers, the audience could concentrate on listening to the beautiful music that these artistes had to give. At the end of the show, all the artists took the stage one more time and gave a taste of their individual vocal attributes. It was simply beautiful. By the end of the show, I was hoping to have found the weak link in the five performances, but I was grasping at straws. Sure, each individual performance was unlike the other. And each artist performed to the best of their strengths. I conceded that it was a brilliant all- round performance. I was given a music CD, which I will listen to with a blissful smile and a pina colada, as I offer a toast to only one of the best first performances I’ve ever attended.