Published May 01, 2005Those who expected the lilting, spacey grooves from King Sunny Ade's trio of early '80s Island albums would have been surprised by Ade's Toronto performance. The advance word on this tour was the promise of an African-style show featuring "praise singing." This involves members of the audience coming on stage, pressing money to the singer's forehead and basking in the singer's compliments for a few minutes while shaking a tail feather with the band. Be honest, don't you wish you'd thought of that? Well, it's nice work if you can get it, and it's a shameless way to guarantee the audience's enthusiasm. I won't soon forget the gentleman who came onstage and handed out 20s to each member of the 16-piece band. For more than three hours, Ade and his African Beats brought a 140 BPM non-stop groove to the crowd - no gently rollicking rhythms here. With seven percussionists laying it down, including four musicians playing various sizes of talking drum, there was simply no resisting the music. Of special note was drummer Tope Adu, whose skill, feeling and inventiveness pushed everyone into an indescribable "next gear" with every fill. The show had a P-Funk vibe, with at least 20 to 25 people on stage at all times, although George Clinton's band would never be so tight, sober or deluged with cash. With songs regularly clocking in at over 20 minutes, one simply had to give up the funk for the perfectly executed call and response between Sunny Ade, the four harmonists, assorted band members and well-wishers. When the lights came up after three-and-a-half hours, everyone wanted more. One of the best African shows I've ever seen.