Last night, Neumos got a major boost of adrenaline via a full moon and a raucous hip-hop show. No disrespect to the power of a full moon, but if I had to say what force had the biggest effect on so many people in the audience going crazy (in a good way), I'd say it was the presence of K'naan in the building.
While some people complain that audiences at Neumos typically stand around with their hands in their pockets looking too cool for school, last night that wasn't an issue at all. The place was full to capacity, but mostly with East Africans (of all ages) who came out and represented their beloved K'naan to the fullest. I'll quickly say a big shout-out goes to performer Gabriel Teodros who pushed to make this an all-ages show. There were a whole lot of youth at the show, some who might not have seen a concert of this caliber in their life, and that also went in to making last night's gig such a special event. After the show, I chatted with K'naan for awhile and he even mentioned that since it was an all-ages show, that gave him more energy to bring his absolute best. But more on that after the jumpThe first performer to hit the stage was an Australian MC named Yze who had the challenge of warming up a crowd that really wasn't there to see her. She did a darn good job even though it was kind of hard to hear some of her vocals. Yze performed with a four-person band and brought more of a jazzy, melodic hip-hop vibe to the stage. At one point, she was joined by local b-boy/MC Orbitron and his crew Circle of Fire. They all top-rocked and did a bunch of break-dancing moves on stage, then jumped into the crowd, and put on a full b-boy display. That unexpected element helped make Yze's set more enjoyable and it was good to see some female energy on the bill.
After she finished, hometown hero Gabriel Teodros took the stage and the crowd showed him an amazing amount of love. Since Teodros is half Ethiopian, a lot of the East Africans in the crowd were excited to see him and he made sure to represent. Like always, he spent most of his show bringing up amazing local artists that he works with to perform alongside of him.
My favorite part of the night is when his long-time partner, Khingz, joined him and the duo (pictured above) performed some of their Abyssinian Creole material. The crowd was jumping up and down like a rock show at this point which was very cool to see.
When K'naan eventually took the stage, everyone cheered like mad. He came out in a dapper suit, dressed to the nines as always, with a drum slung over his shoulder. He greeted the crowd and was pleased to see so many Somalis at the show. He kept saying wow and looked genuinely touched that so many people of all races came out to see him. He then jumped into his energetic first single, "Soobax" and folks were shouting out the words louder than he was. From there he launched into some of his newer material off the album Troubadour like "T.I.A." and my favorite, "America" which he performed the bulk of in Somali. That might not be appreciated most nights that he's on the road, but it was important that he sang it the way he did last night.
He also performed the touching, non-album version of the song "Somalia" which a lot of people (myself included) hadn't heard yet. I could see why he put a more upbeat version on the album as the one he performed last night was probably too powerful and painful for the masses. He sort of brought the energy down a bit with that song but he raised it back up quickly by jumping into "If Rap Gets Jealous" and freestyling a bit whenever he forgot his lyrics.
Other choice moments of the night included K'naan performing the afrobeat infused "Fire in Freetown" and the melodic jam, "Fatima." When the band performed their last song, they exited the stage and for some reason, the frigging house lights came up! It was as if there was no encore planned, but the crowd wasn't feeling that at all. K'naan soon re-emerged anyway and hit the crowd with four extra songs. He normally wouldn't do that long of an encore but after each song, he kept saying, "I must really like Seattle" with a huge smile on his face and then launched into another one. It was an amazing night of music and K'naan gave folks everything he could. I asked him what he thought of the night and he was glad to talk about it.
"It was beautiful man," he said. "To see so many East Africans, especially the kids, was amazing. A lot of those kids don't go to concerts period, so for them to come and see me means a lot. I don't take that for granted at all."
He must have spent an hour and a half greeting fans after the show as well. He signed anything that was put in front of him, took as many photos as was requested of him, and added a personal touch that most performers forget about. Very cool.