The uninspiringly literal name is the only dull thing about London Afrobeat Collective. Other than that, whether it’s the beats, the brass, singer Juanita Euka’s jumpsuit or the flashy lighting effects above the stage, they leave Leith Theatre bursting with colour. The nine-piece supply honest-to-goodness party music. Rhythmically complex, but the effect it has on an audience is fairly straightforward – direct to your core and out through your dancing feet. Shout-outs come at regular intervals: “Are you ready?” and “Scotland, make some noise!” Scotland duly obliges. If the test for a band coming cold to an audience is whether it can get them moving, then LAC pass with flying colours. By the end, most of the stalls is properly jumping.
This is a big band and a big sound. Double guitarists (Alex Farrell and Alexis Szjanowicz), double percussion – a regular kit plus congas (Giuliano Osella and Lee Crisp), bass (John Mathews), and an ass-kicking brass section (Andy Watts on trumpet, Edmund Swinburn on tenor sax, Klibens Michelet on baritone sax). Michelet is especially good, eking some deliciously foul sounding bass notes out of his sax, and regularly hopping round the stage, urging the audience to its feet.
All the while, vocalist Juanita Euka leads from the front. Even when not singing, she’s limbo dancing or shaking a tailfeather, keeping the on stage energy high. During one song, Power To The Women, she’s pounding the floor hollering “power” so hard, if you actually did give her any more power she might explode. LAC is a band that look like as well as sound like they are truly going for it.
Key song Prime Minister just doesn’t let up, breaking down several times in interesting ways to let the brass boys do their thing. All You Need Is Air offers both a tag team brass break, and an opportunity for bassist Mathews to indulge in a little solo.
As is often the case with party music, the groove never lets you off the hook, but beyond the visceral, it’s hard to truly connect. No mistake – they are political. All the songs mentioned have something to say. On Prime Minister, for instance, Euka sings about rich men and tax avoidance and “the system”. Power To The Women needs no explanation. But they don’t feel political. The message doesn’t feel welded to the music like it could.
No one wants them to stop though, which for an out-of-town non-headliner with little prior reputation, is no mean feat. “One more tune” is the final noise Scotland makes back at them. LAC obviously can’t oblige, this being a festival and all, but one suspects these are London visitors that would be welcomed back with open arms.