Ibeyi Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, November 15
Published Nov 16, 2017Two years after Ibeyi closed out their first North American tour to a small enthusiastic crowd in Vancouver, the twin duo returned, headlining for the release of their second album Ash. The two-year absence left room for immense growth in their unique, spiritual sound, working with influences such as Kamasi Washington and Chilly Gonzales to add new textures to their already rich timbres.
Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz took the stage in darkness wearing matching red jumpsuits, then rolled into "I've Carried This for Years." Though the venue and crowd were larger, the duo's humility and palpable connection were still front and centre, a reminder that their success hasn't diminished their personality and sense of self. Anything that might have given the crowd pause, like their use of backing tracks to provide a boost, were swept aside by their charm and the fact that nearly every song closed with Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi engaging the crowd with anecdotes, crowd participation or simply freestyling together.
Lisa-Kaindé told a beautiful story in which a younger version of herself tells her grandmother one day she wants to be president of France, which led right into "No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms," a sample from a Michelle Obama speech pulsing throughout the song.
The duo's ability to convey intimacy was most evident during tracks off their first album, where sparser production saw them side-by-side, nothing but cajón, piano and vocals fuelling them. "Mama Says" saw this configuration, Naomi employing her body to produce snaps, claps and smacks across her thighs as percussion. "I'm On My Way," an unreleased track they often play live, followed, capped off by nothing but the twins' vocals.
Though tracks off their first album were few and far between, they made each one count, adding extra a cappella verses at the end of "Oya." They shared their own thoughts on current Western politics, then played "Deathless," which was like a punch to the gut. Though sax giant Kamasi Washington was absent, the song provided another chance for crowd interaction, as Ibeyi pushed for their participation to finish off the last half of the song.
Ibeyi's unrivalled humbleness and immovable love permeated the entire venue. Just ask their mom, who could be found sitting blissfully on the merch counter, eyes closed, a broad smile across her face.