So, this ‘urban’ band that I came to review step out on stage in matching printed suits that evoke leopard print and flintstone couture with an African twist before my view is obscured by a massive white-fro. Certainly, the audience here is as diverse as the music of Benin City.
On record, they are tantalising and boundary pushing, on stage, new elements of their set-up become much more apparent whilst others slink off with respect into the background to allow these more visual prompts to take hold and lead the way through the musical furore.
The case in point is the way the three piece dynamic catches the eye and the mind, whilst a sly backing track is present, Theo Buckingham on drums provides the rhythmical backbone with a tight precision that humanises what could have easily been construed as programmed pre-sets, and the divergent styles and influences are now more visibly anchored by the sax playing skills of Tom Leaper not only does it sidestep the usual expectation of guitars or bass as a given in the live set-up, and now also informs future listens of the album, raising the stakes of the nature of the brass and emphasising a more prevalent force.
Another transformation that occurs is within my belief that spoken word as a medium is shy and introverted, an outlook that can be taken from pouring over introspective and heartfelt lyrics, yet when Joshua Idehen bounds onto the stage, hidden from the world behind mirrored sunglasses, he could be mistaken for the spirit of Stevie Wonder given sight, dancing and moving as if it were a long forgotten art that had been rediscovered without the obvious obstacle of various trip hazards.
I had already tried to bottle lightning once when I reviewed Fires In The Park, an album that deserves to be heard for itself in order to pass judgement rather than hanging onto pulped opinions, and yet again I’ve put myself in the position where I lose myself to something so full of passion, clearly ticking all the right boxes for me, that I occasionally catch myself dumbfounded that I need to put this experience into words.
I nod my head, I tap my feet, I dance, I sing along, and when my favourite lines are uttered I feel my heart catch a little and a spark in my soul ignites, those lines I relate to, those lines I have felt for myself.
And this is my revelation, eventually I realise just how Benin City have curated a beautifully committed audience when I see the girl in front of me turn to her friends, shouting above the music, ‘this is my line!’, stirring that emotion inside here that I had felt previously, and those connections are likely there in nearly every line, in nearly every person in this room, I realise that witnessing Benin City live is more than can just be put into words, it is more than just seeing and believing, Benin City exist through feelings.
Support Band: Debian Black