The son of Fela Kuti, the legendary Nigerian musician, Afrobeat founder and political activist, Kuti sent his band out first to warm things up, and with a five-piece horn section specialising in rapid fire fanfares, three spectacularly gyrating backing vocalists and an industrious rhythm section including a drummer whose kick drum comes from the wrecking-ball school of emphasis, the force was felt immediately.
Kuti himself entered looking cooler than cool but this impression didn’t last. With a performance style that can only be described as wholehearted, he launched into songs from his latest album, Africa for Africa, with vehemence, his free hand beating the air impatiently, and he was soon reaching for his towel.
In a set that ran to almost two hours, including a generous encore section, Kuti only stood still to play his Hammond keyboard or tilt his trumpet and alto saxophone into the mic while he played imprecatory lines and improbably long notes through circular breathing.
His aim is to serve up strong medicine – diatribes on poverty in Africa and corruption and greed in the continent’s politicians – in a sweet drink and in case the message got over-diluted, he delivered a rambling lecture that rather broke the spell.
The music itself, however, as it paused, faded and erupted to Kuti’s James Brown-like conducting methods, was impressive and for those two hours Lothian Road might have been in Lagos.