i've mourned the dearth of good hip hop shows in new york (and everywhere more generally), but hitting up one of this band's "off the hook," if you will, afrobeat shows goes some way towards satisfying the hankering; dancing and drinking are part and parcel with the music, and it's impossible not to get caught up in the energy. this is the point of live shows, to my mind.
it's ironic that i just finished reading barbara ehrenreich's new book, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy
, as i went to the show in brooklyn last night. in the book, she traces the history of, um, collective joy, or group celebrations, from prehistoric times to the present, with the vague goal of making sense of why those celebrations don't really happen today. [the book is fascinating, her theories are unique and fearless, and the historical research is super impressive. but i found her explanation of the current moment's lack of collective joy weak -- and to some degree that seemed like the whole point of the book, like the punchline you're waiting for as you read. still she's laid some incredible groundwork for looking into it further.]
collective joy does still happen, but we need a leader maybe more than we used to. the charisma of the antibalas lead singer, amayo, proves how powerful having a charismatic emcee can be -- he commands the crowd like a master and people were waving, yelling and screaming, clapping along. i was in awe of the call and answer things he did, which were the loudest i've ever heard, and how well the audience clapped along with the rhythm patterns he demonstrated, until, that is, i realized that...
a lot of the applause was CANNED! i think some of the shouts may have been canned as well, but i can't be sure. i'm sure about the applause, though, and there were certain drum beats that weren't being played by anybody. there was definitely a laptop running pro tools somewhere, and they didn't want that known because it wasn't on stage.
took me a little bit to get back into the groove of things as i wondered how much of what i was listening to was actually real, but everyone being caught up in it helped, and so did the sheer fact that they've written such great songs (the stuff on their new album sounds like it even has some slavic influences, a crazy and enticing combo with the afrobeat). i guess though, with the whole canned applause thing, it just goes to show that thinking you're having a good time is as important as actually having it.