London, Saturday November 10, 2018
When buying tickets for a concert, you sometimes have to fight for the scraps with other unseen and unknown buyers and you may very well find yourself to be at the losing end after having spent 15 minutes trying to access the website and then spending an additional hour refreshing in the hope that the words on the screen reading, Sold Out’, are not true. You may also be one of the lucky winners of the privilege to get to buy a ticket for +£70 AND booking fees, and post about your good fortune on your choice of social media.
And then there are those gigs at the other end of the spectrum. The free ones. And the unexpected ones. Like this afternoon just around 1pm when I found myself wandering into my local record store, Rough Trade East. I was looking for a record that they didn’t have. Instead I found a gig. So I took up position near the stage with about a couple of dozen other people who also wanted to see what this afternoon-gig might be like.
By the looks of things, Azekel is an upcoming singer from east-London, trying to get a break into the music industry. An afternoon gig in front of about 20-30 people may not be a sold out O2 or Wembley Stadium but it’s what you have to do to get your name out there and show people, who just a few minutes earlier, might not be aware you existed. But a look into Azekel online after the concert reveals that he’s not as new and unknown as I thought he was. His debut album was released in 2013 and he has worked with bands like Gorillaz and Massive Attack. On his latest record, Our Father, he presents songs about being a father and the challenging relationship with his own father and being the only father in his group of friends.
It’s R&B in the form we’ve come to know it in the last few decades, smooth and poppy, alternating between romantic and sexy. It’s not R&B the raw old-school way. It’s the new-school kind of R&B and the music itself doesn’t offer much originality, but the lyrics contain observations about fatherhood and relationships that lift the songs to another level than your average song in the R&B genre, with lines like: ‘Young and married, The only family man amongst my friends, Although I’m happy, Sometimes alone would nice by ourselves’ (Don’t Wake the Babies). On Black is Beauty (Daughters), which seems to be a conversation with his young daughters, Azekel sings: ‘Remember what I told you, black is beauty, Always my special girls… For too long, black has been a negative term, Blackmailed, blacklisted, blackballed, black magic, From here on today, we reclaim that, Black is beauty’. It’s a touching song.
At this afternoon gig, Azekel is accompanied by a drummer and guitar-player. This trio has got its sound down and their frontman performs the songs, not just with his voice but his whole body, writhing his way through most of the songs, which suits the wriggly songs great.
Fittingly, the last song, Wetty Betty, urges the listener to grab life and live it while we still can, ’You better let it play, We’re too young to go into the cemetery, Bang Bang, Yeah’. Leaving the record store, going into the grey London afternoon, the feeling of holding on to youthfulness even when you’re past it, and the urgency of making the most of this life, is what I take with me.