But I'm getting ahead of myself here. The evening started with the Luvmenauts, whose surf/spaghetti Western big band weirdness (complete with whistling and vocal roars) inspired smiles as well as some head scratching.
Asiko Afrobeat followed with their own Toronto-style Afrobeat grooves, warming up the audience with some tried and true memes (shout out to Bea Labikova for a superb alto sax solo in the Asiko set).
Egypt 80 then took the stage to set the room up for the powerhouse that is Seun Anikulapo Kuti, who proceeded to tear the roof off the Phoenix Concert Hall with a blazing two-hour set.
There was plenty of room to showcase music from his new release A Long Way From the Beginning with the wry cynicism of "IMF," the feminism of "Black Woman" and the uplifting prescription of "Higher Consciousness."
Kuti continues to exercise his father's commitment to focus his music and his stage banter to point out the injustices and hypocrisies of the system that we live in, exhorting the crowd to beware of government that is "the bodyguard of the corporations."
As for the music, Kuti has matured and filled the rather huge shoes of his father playing with members of Fela Kuti's original Egypt 80 band. When last he played Toronto, it was a case of him doing a little catch-up with a bunch of bad ass old guys who could slam grooves in their sleep, but still managing to show that he was a contender. This time he owned the stage, the music and the vibe with a mastery, commitment and elegance that was something to see.
The band played with a relaxed intensity that belied the jaw-dropping complexity that revealed itself if you actually were able to stop dancing and listen closely. This was high-end African music making at its finest and one of the best concerts of the year.