Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival Review: Angélique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo enchants the Festival Theatre with powerful vocals and charismatic dance

Angélique Kidjo enchants the Festival Theatre with powerful vocals and charismatic dance

Presented by: Adelaide Festival

Reviewed: 12 March, 2024

After being absent for five years, the world-renowned Angélique Kidjo returns to Adelaide Festival and is joyfully received on Tuesday night. The five time Grammy winner and celebrated humanitarian does not disappoint. She wears a full length, flowing tie dye gown of blue, teal, yellow, and purple hues. Her jewellery glitters in the spotlight. Her shoes are lace up boots with short heels that allow her the freedom to dance.

The opening act is Maatakitj, stage name for Noongar songmaker and professor Clint Bracknell. His musical style is reminiscent of American country blues guitar, but with powerhouse vocals and Noongar lyrics. Each song is inspired by nature. Maatakitj’s dance-like actions convey the meanings. Hearing his Noongar lyrics resonate through the Festival Theatre is a humbling and beautiful experience. 

After a brief interval, Kidjo takes the stage. Despite the amount of bass accompanying her (the band consists of drums, percussion, bass guitar, and keyboard) nothing can challenge the power of Kidjo’s incredible and emotive voice. Her deep, powerful vocals and vibrant charisma dominate the entire theatre, entrancing the audience within moments. Her songs transcend language and genre, taking inspiration from African, European, jazz, and South American musical traditions.

She talks to the audience with warm confidence: “You know me. You come to my show… you come, you dance, you sing.” She laments no longer being able to invite people on stage to dance with her, since the pandemic. As she sings, she dances, twirls, and sways. Her music is infectious. Within a few songs, many audience members are seen discretely walking to the edge of the aisles, to dance without disturbing anyone. They form a conga line (of sorts) wrapped around the edges of the theatre, bursting with enthusiasm and rhythm.

She performs a wealth of songs, including: AfrikaAfrica One of a KindTake It or Leave ItOnce in a LifetimeMeant for Me, and Choose Love. Towards the end of the show she invites Maatakitj and the Adelaide Children’s Choir on stage to perform Mama Africa with her, celebrating “our diverse community.” It is a beautiful and poignant moment that finds the entire audience singing (and clapping) along.

Kidjo not only owns her stage but lives rent free in the hearts of her audience. Together with Maatakitj, they deliver an evening of unforgettable world music with a lingering aftertaste of hope, acceptance, and world peace. 

Kidjo’s band credits: drums – Gregory Louis, percussion – David Donatien, bass – Rody Cereyon, and keyboards – Thierry Vaton.

Reviewed by Nicola Woolford

Photo credit: Andrew Beveridge

Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: ended

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