No performance stood out at this year’s VGMAs…not EL, not Sarkodie, not Wizkid. No one!

Maybe it’s we the audience, who are to blame. Let me explain, at least attempt to:

I don’t know exactly why…maybe it’s because the performances had to be brief, you know, so that we would end on time for the first time ever…maybe it’s all that “forced” live band upon some artists, who are not “live band people”…I don’t know; but the performances were hardly exceptional. So how come?

This year’s awards was themed “let the music play live”, perhaps to please the many people who campaigned for our musicians to play live. The artists were therefore required to perform either to a live band, or to an instrumental. They all did, and we were largely underwhelmed… in our hearts.

We know Stonebwoy to not sweat performing to a live band –he didn’t. We expect Efya to slay with a live band –she did. Since releasing Mary, we have come to expect “live” from Sarkodie, and his singing has improved with every performance. Joe Mettle has sang to a live band forever, because it’s what’s done in church.

We both have to admit immediately, before this conversation progresses any further though, that the Patch Bay Band, was excellent..the real stars on the night. Someone has to sing their praises…

The reason anyone would shy away from giving a live band performance is not always because they’re incompetent in that way, but that they’re not sure of a “security”. Miming is safe. No matter what, a miming artist shall not, must not flop. Of course, some people manage to flop. I dont know why that happens, but hear me out: when the actually track is playing, in all it’s perfection that we fell in love with and are used to, the artist doesn’t have to do anything…which is what mimers do…nothing. They just watch us, the audience, (with one foot on the monitor speaker on the edge of the stage) do the performance for them. We love the song in that particular form. We are excited by it just like that. The performer doesn’t have to do anything new or challenging, and that’s why it’s safe.

When you have to perform live, however, you’re re-creating the song in many respects. That new dimension to the song may not go down with the audience the way you intend it. It could go one of two ways: great or the other one. Hence you need to be sure that the band behind you won’t let you down.

Patch Bay let no one down. They were efficient, and it was impressive how they reproduced perfectly, the many intricacies in the various songs. Even transitioning from song to song was wicked. Several times, I would ask myself if there wasn’t an instrumental playing behind, if the live band wasn’t really playing. They were that spiritual.

“We are not limited to a particular genre. We do all genres of music like afro pop, jazz…”, they told last year. Maybe that explains it. They know everything. They do everything…very well too.

Formed in 2009 by Akwaboah and co, they have over the years, backed various artists; from Becca to Samini,  as well as played several high-profile private gigs. This year’s VGMAs though, is where they shone, really shone; from the nominees jams to the main event.

This is not their first time at the awards (they’ve been there at least six times before), but this is their most impressive, in my view…

Like I said, the performances weren’t bad –really and truly. So, why did they not affect us the way we expected? I mean, EL brought out an orchestra, Efya sung to violins, and she sang very well too. Both Sarkodie and Bisa were impressive, technically. So, what “special ingredient” were we missing?

Maybe it’s because many of the performances, save for a few tweaks here and there, were already familiar to us, even in their live forms. Efya had done the Obianuju ballad several times before Saturday night…So had Stonebwoy, so had Sarkodie with their respective songs. And so perhaps another challenge performers will have to worry about is keeping their live performances “fresh” every time: fresh intros, fresh interludes, fresh choreography , etc.

Maybe too, we are the problem. Maybe we don’t know what we want. Maybe we don’t know how we want it. Maybe we have expectations, and then are confused by our expectations at the same time. Because the live band came to us, like we wanted it. Why then was there an awkwardness in the atmosphere, and insufficient enthusiasm as many points?

Maybe we are not used to live band like we thought we did. Olaka has always maintained that performing hiplife live will never be the same. Maybe last Saturday vindicates him.

I’m not saying we should return to miming. Definitely not. Live band is better than no band, nearly every time.

I’m just trying to unpack how efficient live band was presented to us, and it still didn’t suffice. 

Maybe that was it: it was efficient…but does efficiently guarantee excitement on every occasion? Maybe not. Excitement, the best form, comes out of a spontaneity. 

Is spontaneity therefore, what was missing from the show? Did our quest to be discipline with our time for instance, lead us into having an “automatic” show, with little room for error, and therefore little room for excitement?



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