Melbourne’s The Bombay Royale look to Bollywood for inspiration, buying into a fantasy world of surf guitar, super villains, and damsels in distress. There’s a cruise ship captain and the horn section wear masks. In front of a typically excitable AWME crowd they tear through tracks from their recent debut album You Me Bullets Love, the searing funk of Sote Sote Adhi Raat a highlight.
When Egypt 80 take to the stage The Hi Fi Bar is bursting at the seams. Their sound is well honed after decades of performing, taut, primed ready to explode. Afrobeat doesn’t get more urgent, more life affirming than this. Kuti appears and is immediately onto the sax, kicking everything up a notch. He’s playing his fathers Zombie “out of respect for the man,” and it’s incredible to the point of being overwhelming. Next up they launch into Fire Dance from their debut album and the band feel even tighter. This is the way music should be, relentless, primal, and precise. Kuti is all over the stage writhing in time with the music, offering urgent sax solos, though also stopping occasionally to talk politics. “Africa is the worlds experiment,” he proclaims, “you want austerity? We’ve had it for years. You should send over the Europeans, we can train them in austerity and then send them back.” He chuckles to himself before launching into Rise Up, the title track to his last album, a track that felt a little indulgent on record, but live is a welcome breather from the relentless energy. The Good Leaf is also preceded by a monologue, with Kuti pondering how marijuana, something that occurs naturally could be illegal. Earthquakes kill many more people, yet they’re legal he suggests.
Tonight most of the tunes come from his recent From Africa With Fury: Rise album, and Kuti is a passionate spokesperson for his continent. It’s not just in his banter with the crowd, or his lyrics, but his energy, his intelligence and sheer musicianship. The band is of course a weapon, they know no other way than totally uncompromising pedal to the metal.
In the audience bodies are flying everywhere, the effect this music is having is remarkable. When he finally leaves the stage the roar for an encore is among the loudest noises that this writer has ever heard. But this is what Kuti and Egypt 80 do, they ignite the listener, both in body and mind.