Johnny Clegg supported by Inemo: Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London W12

Concert review by Debbie Golt

Inemo are a really rock solid UK afro beat / funk band led by the eponymous Nigerian born Inemo who is a bold and experienced performer and composer who really does know how to mix afro beat and funk masterfully with no seams. He completely won over the capacity predominantly South African crowd with a skilful combination of his own and wider tracks – including an excellent African vibes version of Knocking on Heaven’s Door – which even raised a lighter or two. Check out Afro Funky Beats on Black Mango Music.

And then Johnny Clegg – 2 hours on stage and rising and he still had even more to give – high Zulu kicks, high energy bush dance -swirling round the stage jazz style and use of at least 3 different guitars notwithstanding! I had forgotten how good he is. How he leaves any questions about what is world music at the gate – Mbqanga, Marabi, Rock – Chimurenga beats on one song: a real plea and indictment about how things are in Zimbabwe – good humoured anecdotes that go somewhere and give both political and very personal insights into the man – whether you agree entirely with him or not – more rock and more clear understanding of how music works. How you can be born in England and grow up an African.

Towering rhythm section – fabulous use of those unique south african harmonies – driven by his long time vocal colleague Mandisa Dlanga whose worked with him for 20 years (and is a producer in her own right) and musical arranger, of 15 years standing, Andy Innes. And he featured the first French, Afrikaans, Zulu fusion! Dan Shout’s saxophone breaks added part rhythm, part voice to the fine mix out dancing even the guitars on occasions.

The set was a superbly paced mix of (both brilliant and need time to grow on you) tracks from Johnny Clegg’s new album, One Life, and full house sing along favourites retaining their potency which eventually he gave full vent to in the last part of the gig and when finally the crowd really started dancing too – jumping and gyrating and not even treading on toes despite the place being packed! In the two upper tiers it was standing ovation time, which lasted a good four minutes before the generous encore. And the thing I really took away from it was both Johnny Clegg’s sheer pleasure in still sharing his music after a lifetime on stage and the value he gives his musicians – even giving them full bios on his website.

Debbie Golt, Outerglobe, +44 7939564103

(Shepherds Bush Empire is a glorious 2000 capacity 3 tier venue in the palace style. The former BBC studio theatre began life in 1903 as a fine music hall and eventually had a £2,000,000 brilliant makeover as a perfect pitch live venue in 1993 by the Break for the Border group and is a vital part of London’s vibrant scene, consistently winning Music Week’s Live Venue of the year awards.)