Photography: Glyn Akroyd / @GlynAkroyd

Ibibio Sound Machine

I Love Live Events @ Invisible Wind Factory 10/10/19

The couple of hundred people who are at tonight’s show are the lucky few. Inside it’s a different world from the dreary October night of the real world and it’s a shame more people don’t get to see the spectacle.

Without exaggeration, IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE produce one of the most entertaining and engaging gigs that Liverpool’s seen for a while. From the moment Eno Williams stalks on to the stage and launches in to I Need You To Be Sweet Like Sugar (from this year’s album, Doko Mien), to the last note of Basquiat, it’s a night that’s full of pure joy, happiness and dancing. So. Much. Dancing.

Without exception, the eight-piece group is made up of incredible musicians (more of whom later) but the focus inevitably falls on to Williams whose stage presence, movement and voice are incredible. She commands attention and mesmerises the audience. Singing in a combination of English and Ibibio, her voice is powerful but maintains its clarity, and her chat between songs charismatic and so lovely. She makes it look easy – dancing round exuberantly with a charming smile, keeping time and note perfect, all in treacherously high heels.

"There’s a vibrancy and urgency that makes dancing inevitable. There’s no demarcation between audience and band by the end, just a group of people having a party"

Her energy is contagious: with each song the mood lifts further, building to a euphoria by the end of the night. It’s a furious riot of sound – the riffs of the guitars and percussion work with the three-man brass section to build a multi-layered sound. It’s a wonderful atmosphere that fills the cathedral-like dimensions of the IWF with ebullience and joy.

It’s not an overstatement to say that Williams’ voice is close to perfection: it’s a well-judged mix of raw power, control and warmth. When she’s not singing, she dances with the band during their solos and positions the microphone just so it’s in the right position to capture the sound of the trombone or saxophone.

The brass section lifts the sound and adds a playful punch. It’s reminiscent of the 70s and 80s and the links to disco and funk jump out, but it’s anything but backward looking as the electronic sound, courtesy of the keyboards, brings a contemporary element and adds layers. The styles could clash in a cacophony but it’s amazing, vital and a wonderful combination – the genres blend together to create something new that defies easy definition.

Ibibio Sound Machine Image 2

It’s a multi-layered sound from talented musicians that looks forward and which has an energy and creativity bubbling underneath. Alfred Kari Bannerman is the coolest looking lead guitarist in any band. The pace is furious and is maintained throughout with the exception of one track (I Know That You’re Thinking About Me) which gives everyone a chance to catch their breath.

There are not many gigs where the majority of the audience are dancing – and I mean properly giving it some – from the first note. There’s a vibrancy and urgency that makes dancing inevitable: coats are discarded and everyone’s moving as the heat builds. The atmosphere is lovely and the crowd is a really friendly bunch. There’s no demarcation between audience and band by the end, just a group of people having a party.

It’s a raucous sweaty affair that makes you feel the world would be a better place if Ibibio Sound Machine gig tickets were available on the NHS. When they tour next, be kind to yourself and go.

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