Tonight, Martin Perna led the band through one longer set rather than the two shorter sets they used to spring on unsuspecting audiences. Despite cutting their playing time, their performances are so good that nobody leaves an Antibalas show frustrated at the end of the night.
As the band’s catalogue has grown, they have dropped the Fela covers in favour of their own songs. These have grown beyond Afrobeat to include the jazzier sounds on their current “Security” c.d. and the Latin jams they now bust into, along with those spacey flourishes from organist Victor Axelrod.
They played songs like “Filibuster XXX” from the new disc, and older Afrobeat jams from the band’s early days after their brief incarnation as The Daktaris. Singer Amayo still sings almost all the songs, filling in with the percussionists during the instrumental passages. Everyone keeps busy on Antibalas’ stage, which is no small feat when dealing with thirteen odd performers, including a full horn section. This time out, band leader Martin Perna stepped further away from the spotlight while some of the other members cut loose and take turns fronting the band. Jordan McLean vamped and played trumpet and flugelhorn for an extend jam, while Amayo was supporting the percussion section.
The audience seems to recognize more of the band’s self-penned tracks, particularly songs with a catchy chorus, such as “Government Magic” from a 2005 release of the same title. The final encore tonight, the irresistible “Che Che Cole” also comes from this release, but the vocals for the live version come from guitarist Marcos J. Garcia.
The Fela influence can never leave a band dedicated to the genre he pioneered, but Antibalas have diversified their sound, especially in the last few years, to go beyond that of Afrobeat revivalists. Stateside, they might be passing that torch to fellow Americans such as the Chicago Afrobeat Project and
Pictures are at www.flickr.com/photos/emangrooving.