After the release of his debut album, Rave & Roses, which saw ten songs land on the US Billboard afrobeat charts, “Afro-rave”, creator Rema suddenly went from being a local boy in Benin city, Nigeria, to a global superstar.
His live performance, as seen at the O2 Academy Brixton last night, continued his pushing of the genre’s creative boundaries to new heights. And his enthusiastic fans were palpably thrilled about it.
Rema arrived on the stage hidden behind a black sheet covering a vertical rectangle-shaped box. As beaming red lights struck the stage, fans yelled in anticipation - and then delight, as the sheet was pulled off to reveal Rema standing in a red London telephone box (nice touch).
The energy was up from the start, with the Nigerian singer jumping out of his phone box brandishing a bunch of red roses, jumping from left to right, encouraging the crowd and whipping up the party atmosphere. It felt as if almost everyone immediately started dancing - they were certainly singing, chiming Soundgasm word for word without hesitation.
“London was one of the first places to support me,” Rema told us. “As long as I’m here, I am yours,” he added, before embarking on a comprehensive run through of the album, rolling them out at top speed in a way that felt almost rushed.
Though this was predominantly a showcase for the young star, the show came with a solid string of supporting guests. Nigerian singer Victony blessed the stage, performing Different Size, the Burna Boy hit on which he features, and Holy Father, during which there was a moment when the audience was singing “Holy Father, Holy Father, I’m screaming my Lady Gaga,” in harmony.
Rema’s reverence for authentic talent from his home country was reaffirmed by his introduction of Fireboy DML, producing elation among the 4,000-strong audience.
Then Rema played his trump card by ushering out Dave to perform his hit song (also made with Nigerian superstar Burna Boy), Location, in the exalted aftermath of which Rema sat on the edge of the stage with his head in his hands, soaking in the moment and considering, perhaps, just how far he’s come - indicated by the ‘One billion streams’ plaque then carried out onto the stage.
“This belongs to you. You deserve it,” Rema told the audience, holding the plaque in the air for all to see, before finishing the night strong with a memorable performance of Bounce, followed by Women (accompanied by glamorous female dancers). Overall, it was a triumph, which should come as no surprise. Greater rooms await.