How many continents can you travel to in two and a half hours? Well recently I travelled to five continents – yes five! OK I couldn’t possibly visit these locations in the physical sense but I was transported on a marvellous, musical odyssey with Muyiwa & Riversongz and various support acts at the Hammersmith Apollo. The gig was highly anticipated for a number of reasons: it is the first time a UK Gospel act has headlined and sold out a secular music venue; it was being simulcast to Africa and North America; finally nearly everyone I knew were either planning to attend or knew someone who was.
The support artists opened up the show in style; multi-talented Catholic artist, Edwin Fawcett, blessed the crowd with several tracks. Up tempo R’n’B inspired ‘Flame Anthem’ then followed by ‘Stronghold’ – a powerful musical testimony of the Lord being a stronghold. Roni Padilla, a London-based Latin Music artist originally from Honduras, roused the crowd with his energetic rock-infused track. The last of the support acts, representing the African continent, Rebecca took the crowd to another level – forcefully declaring the goodness of the Lord, whilst accompanied by a troupe of backing dancers performing an energetic African-inspired dance routine.
Then the moment we had all been waiting for arrived: Muyiwa & Riversongz graced the stage and they did not disappoint. On the night Riversongz took the audience to Asia, India and China respectively, with guest singers from those nations singing in their native tongue. We were then taken to the Caribbean islands with the reggae-inspired ‘Jehovah Jireh’ – complete with bopping backing vocalists. Next stop was to West Africa with the beautiful ‘High Life’ inspired guitar riffs played by Femi Temowo. I particularly enjoyed ‘Hey Ya’ which always reminds me of a Native American chant (yes think Red Indian – full head dress, chanting ‘hey ya ya’ with hand tapping on mouth motion outside a tippee). Similarly a guest performance by Joelle Moses, one of the final contestants on BBC’s ‘The Voice’, was another personal highlight. Ms. Moses sang with absolute power and beauty inviting us into her secret place of worship.
The beauty of Muyiwa’s music is that his songs are often simple and powerful anthems almost anyone can grasp. Muyiwa is a master of leading the masses into worship who knows how to engage the audience and sign post them to the Lord whether in high praise or peaceful reflection. As a result he has a huge UK and international following. What other UK Gospel artist do you know can create history by selling out a popular secular music venue with a capacity of approximately 5,000 whilst having the show broadcast to African and North America? Exactly.
The band were excellent as were his faithful backing singers perfectly complimenting him in motion (lively choreography or standing still) and in melody (think beauty and power in harmonies).
The show was left in the capable hands of host Sammy G, a well known UK Gospel artist and presenter on Premier Gospel who held all the elements together with natural charm and humour.
The set contained all the elements of a good concert; there were moments of reflective worship where we led into the Lord’s presence contrasted with other moments of high energy and uplifting praise. The only criticism I have is that the concert felt slightly rushed, simply because it started later than anticipated. Despite this I left feeling inspired, refreshed and eagerly awaiting another live performance from the collective.