As he’s the figurehead of Nigerian Afrobeats, it feels appropriate thatD’Banj‘s debut UK headline show takes place on the final day of the Notting Hill carnival. Alongside the usual dancehall and soca, a good proportion of the anthems that fuelled this year’s sound systems and floats are the hits that have propelled the rise of Afrobeats in the UK: Atumpan’s The Thing, Ice Prince’s Oleku and, of course, D’Banj’s own Oliver Twist, a song of such popular reach that it even made it on to EastEnders.
Keeping that carnival spirit going is D’Banj’s MO tonight, as is that of a significant proportion of the audience, who have hotfooted it down the road from the carnival. As an entertainer, D’Banj treads the line between suave and rambunctious with ease: his dapper yellow-lapelled blazer is swiftly shed as he starts to rival his own dancers in snake-hipped, low-grinding ability, and the gold chain follows as he plunges off stage for a spot of crowd-surfing. By the show’s climax, D’Banj is half-naked and essaying moves that seem to refer mostly to the title of his forthcoming album, Mr Endowed.
After a late entrance compounded by technical difficulties leaves the crowd slightly restless, D’Banj may feel putting that level of work in is necessary – but it transpires that the music does the trick just as well. “This is not a fluke,” he announces midway through the show, perhaps mindful that not everyone present is aware of his seven-year career before Oliver Twist. Tonight, though, his older material goes down almost as well, from the call-and-response of Why Me to the lovelorn Scapegoat, and D’Banj bridges the gap between his more lilting, organic songs and his recent tougher, trancier dance-floor anthems with ease. His between-song patter has a tendency to ramble, but the show’s culmination in Oliver Twist is stellar proof that an international hit can be engineered with ease if based around a resonant, inarguable statement such as “I like Beyoncé”.