Femi Kuti & Positive Force River Stage, LeBreton Flats, Ottawa ON, July 4

Femi Kuti & Positive Force River Stage, LeBreton Flats, Ottawa ON, July 4
Photo: Jessica Deeks
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At one time, the Ottawa Bluesfest worked as a showcase for today's best world music acts. But after subtracting one of their seven stages for the 2013 edition, along with the recent influx of electronic and EDM shows, fans of international sounds have been left with just a handful of shows to coalesce and get their collective Teva sandals dusty.

Luckily, the first night of this sprawling ten-day event featured the return of Bluesfest favourites Femi Kuti & Positive Force. Leading his 11-piece band onto the picturesque River Stage, Kuti greeted the crowd with gracious smiles and blown kisses. Informing the audience that, due to time constraints, he would be sticking to material from his new LP, No Place for My Dream, Kuti treated festival-goers to a high-energy, workmanlike hour-long set. Eschewing his Roland and sax for much of the show, Kuti stuck to the edge of the stage with microphone in hand to brazenly drive home his inspiring messages of peace and rebellion… and to dance, dance, dance. The fact that Kuti can deliver such heavy-handed songs about government corruption and poverty while keeping the mood so upbeat and nimble proves that a Positive Force show is more than just dour politics, it's a pure celebration of freedom of expression.