Live: Ibibio Sound Machine / Nathan Fake

Norwich Arts Centre May 23, 2024

by Dan Alborough

The support tonight comes from Norfolk DJ Nathan Fake.

His electronic set is impressive and stirring, and he ramps up the excitement ahead of the main event. It’s the ideal start to the evening.

Eno Williams: Her smile is just for you (Picture: Paul Jones)
Eno Williams: Her smile is just for you (Picture: Paul Jones)

An almost seamless lead-in takes place as Ibibio Sound Machine gather on stage, with singer Eno Williams weaving her way to the mic.

A pulsating opening bursts into Electricity, which sparks off the set brilliantly and hooks us in.

Percussionist Afla Sackey (Picture: Paul Jones)
Percussionist Afla Sackey (Picture: Paul Jones)

Williams is a striking frontwoman. Wearing a disco ball crash helmet, she is hypnotic and makes it feel like her smile is for you.

As her powerful vocals and the band’s beats fill every space, lights hit the disco ball and the walls are showered with dancing beams from floor to ceiling.

It must be one of the best shows here in ages (Picture: Paul Jones)
It must be one of the best shows here in ages (Picture: Paul Jones)

Tonight is one of the early shows on this tour for their latest album, Pull The Rope. Throughout, they serve up their clash of African and electronic elements inspired by funk, disco, post-punk and electro.

Among the thrilling standout moments, Protection From Evil – written during lockdown – has a moving, chanting beginning that leads to a brass-fuelled blast of drama, and it results in goosebumps.

Eno Williams lights up the place – literally and figuratively (Picture: Paul Jones)
Eno Williams lights up the place – literally and figuratively (Picture: Paul Jones)

As the set continues, and with love flowing from the stage, there’s effortless synergy between Williams and the rest of the group, with Afla Sackey’s stamina on percussion, Alfred Kari Bannerman’s guitar wizardry, Jose Joyette’s pounding drumbeats and Derrick McIntyre’s work on the bass.

And when the synth and brass strike up, Tony Hayden, Scott Baylis and Max Grunhard combine to rouse and stir.

Founder member Max Grunhard on the sax (Picture: Paul Jones)
Founder member Max Grunhard on the sax (Picture: Paul Jones)

It’s hard not to smile, and as Williams gyrates, cavorts and grooves, it’s impossible to keep still, too.

When the crash helmet goes, her presence remains just as powerful, and light shines from within. She interjects with positivity and the connection with us is clear.

The hypnotic Eno Williams (Picture: Paul Jones)
The hypnotic Eno Williams (Picture: Paul Jones)

The encore of Pull The Rope caps a truly memorable evening and this is surely one of the greatest gigs held here for a long time.

We’re all thrilled cogs within the Ibibio Sound Machine.

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