The Ritz, Putting On Africa Express

The special train carrying musicians around Britain pulled into Victoria Station yesterday and they put a show on at The Ritz for us Mancs. It was pretty darned good.

The idea was obviously cribbed from a certain Canadian tour of 1970 but that was definitely a good thing, as everyone on stage seemed to be having a ball and, at times, they were simply carrying on a jam that had kicked off earlier on the rail tracks.

I’d guess that around 40 musicians and singers played some part during the 4 hour gig, in pre-formed groups or simply joining in with mates. No set-up played more than two songs (and often only one) before different people took a turn. This meant that about 40% of the concert was re-jigging instruments and mikes but there was still a helluva lot of great music (and the genial behaviour of the large, bald, chief roadie made the changes quite amusing).

There were too many unfamiliar faces for me to remember – and the introductions were often garbled – so take a read of the Graun review if you need detailed info. I do know that it started with some great Malian music, travelled around Africa, rapped in Ghana, rocked, hip-hopped, got Blurred and Hooky (and even a bit Kate Bush-y!) before Baaba Maal eventually made a second appearance to bring it all to a final climax.

Damon Albarn has done a great job getting this magnificently joyous stew on the tracks; even though he may pop up a bit too often, no-one on stage seemed to mind in the slightest. If the train comes to your town, go see it. It may be rather chaotic and random but it will produce moments that lift your heart (and the Ritz show only cost £15!). It kept me almost-dancing for the best part of four hours, which hasn’t happened for a long, long time!

15 thoughts on “The Ritz, Putting On Africa Express

  1. Sounds like it was a great event, like you my first thoughts on reading the G’s review was the trans Canada jaunt. It’s not clear what the intent of this idea is, is it to promote the artists for subsequent performances in the UK? Wish I could have been there, even my gammy leg would have joined in the dancing!

    • As far as I can see, gf, it’s just a general effort to raise awareness of African music. This Graun article says a bit more. But, tbh, there were more non-African musicians than I expected (and a little more rapping than I’m comfortable with).

    • The London version was £20 – plus £2.50 (per ticket) “card handling fee, plus £2.25 postage. I can’t begin to tell you how vexed those extra charges make me…

      • Well, yes, there were inexplicable add-ons to the £15. But £25 is still good value for the quantity and quality of the music.
        Beware bish, there’s a lot of jamming….

      • Ha ha, I suspected there might be. As long as everyone involved seems to be having a good time, I suspect I won’t mind it too much!

    • It seems to be a 6pm start tonight, bish. So, given the enthusiasm and quantity of the acts, I suspect you’ll be there for about 5-6 hours! Do let us know how it goes.

  2. I thought it would be good. Every time I have the opportunity to go see Albarn and collaborators, they seem to be dashed. Gorillaz in Glasgow – cancelled. Good The Bad & The Queen in London – on the day we were leaving. I was coming into Waverley Station in Edinburgh on Tuesday and was hoping that they might come back this way, but it wasn’t to be…

  3. Well, that was a lot of fun (if with a fair few longueurs). I didn’t even mind Macca turning up for a bit of a jam – especially as he refrained from wheeling out “Hey Jude” again. John Paul Jones leading the troops through “Kashmir” was pretty thrilling, I have to say.

    • So, if nothing else, it was one for the scrapbook then? There won’t be many more concerts with a similar line-up. And Sirmacca!

      What’s been quite delightful about the whole project is the pop-up gigs they played at schools, colleges, etc. Some of them played at a local Primary School the morning after the Manchester concert. That doesn’t happen on many music tours, so I’ll forgive them the longeurs (of which, I’ll agree, there were several).

      • It was all a bit chaotic, which admittedly was part of its charm. But occasionally, it felt as if the running order could have been thought through better. We had John McClure from Reverend and the Makers coming on to deliver what was pretty much the final number, which was just wrong. I mean, who IS he?! Mind you, it wouldn’t have been the final number if the jobsworths in charge hadn’t turned the power off at bang-on 11pm…

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