I had the incredible pleasure of witnessing the legendary Angélique Kidjo and her phenomenal band take the stage at the newly inaugurated Factory International venue in Manchester.
From the moment the music began, it was evident that this would be iconic.
Joined on stage by an amazing roster of guests, all having an absolute ball, this was a night that will live long in the memory and a great sign of things to come at the newly opened venue.
Layfullstop joined Kidjo on stage for the soulful and introspective “If Only” and the empowering anthem “Fired Up.”
Ellen Beth Abdi contributed her enchanting vocals to the hauntingly beautiful “The Bad Dream” and the captivating “Mother Nature.”
OneDa, a rising star, brought her unique style to the stage, joining Kidjo for the empowering “Africa, One of a Kind” and the heartfelt “Warriors Daughter.”
One of the highlights of the evening was Kidjo’s performance of her rendition of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”
Her ability to infuse her style while paying homage to the original was truly remarkable.
The crowd sang along with fervour, echoing the lyrics that have become iconic over the years.
The sense of unity and celebration was palpable during the encore, as all the guests joined Kidjo on stage for an unforgettable finale.
“Afirika” and the classic “Pata Pata” filled the air with joyous rhythms, leaving the audience in awe of the collective talent on display.
In the brand new, spacious and beautifully sounding Factory International Performance Hall, she lit up the stage with a vibrant, energetic performance that before long had everyone out of the newly minted green velvet seating, and throwing their best shapes.
As the lights dimmed, the crowd eagerly awaited the start of the show. With the first notes of “CrossEyed and Painless,” a Talking Heads cover, the audience was transported into a world of infectious rhythms and captivating melodies.
Kidjo’s powerful vocals immediately captured everyone’s attention, setting the tone for an evening filled with groovy beats and remarkable performances.
Throughout the night, Kidjo treated us to a diverse setlist, showcasing her musical prowess and creativity.
Hits such as “Do Yourself” and “Meant For Me” had the crowd instantly on their feet, dancing and singing along.
The energy in the venue was electric, fuelled by the synergy between Kidjo and her talented band.
Factory International proved to be a perfect venue for this extraordinary event. Its exceptional acoustics complemented the rich soundscapes and allowed every instrument and voice to shine brightly.
The stage design and lighting enhanced the immersive experience, captivating the audience from every angle.
There was one slight hiccup with the sound, but the band expertly styled it out and got everyone up and dancing while the techs took care of business.
The Following evening, Manchester’s AFRODEUTSCHE took to the stage, changing the vibes completely, with her remarkably haunting, willowy voice.
AFRODEUTSCHE’s story is a remarkable one, as she once worked at MIF years ago in customer relations.
But now, she’s one of the headline acts of the festival, and deservedly so, with such a beautiful eclecticism that draws you in and takes you on a wild journey.
Having settled in Manchester after working with renowned acts in London, such as Rokyskopp, The Knife, and Moby, AFRODEUTSCHE was drawn to the city’s creative energy, which played a significant role in shaping her artistic journey.
In “Psalms,” AFRODEUTSCHE combines live vocals, classical piano, the Manchester Camerata, and her electronic elements to craft a modern expression of worship.
Inspired by Handel, she takes the audience on a journey of faith, gradually building up to a grand finale featuring a full orchestra, vocals, and electronics.
AFRODEUTSCHE wanted to create an immersive experience that would leave a lasting impression on the audience, and without doubt, they succeeded.
Introducing themselves to the crowd, AFRODEUTSCHE disclosed her recent autism diagnosis during her performance of the piece “Psalms”.
She told the audience that the composition served as a deeply personal journey of self-discovery and an exploration of love in its various forms.
The performance, beautifully complemented by Michael England’s striking cinematography, took the audience on a voyage through emotive landscapes and transcendental soundscapes.
The experience commenced with AFRODEUTSCHE at the piano, surrounded by the Manchester Camerata’s strings, set against a backdrop of meditative candlelight.
Donning a captivating ensemble consisting of a golden sand-shaded robe and an Afrofuturistic red headdress, she delivered a dramatic and plaintive melody, setting a melancholic tone for the first half of the performance.
Surprising the audience, AFRODEUTSCHE moved to the microphone and intertwined Psalm-like melodies with the Camerata’s adagio string lines, imbuing them with an Eastern harmonic quality.
This piece followed the visionary path of her previous collaboration with the Manchester Camerata, “He Sings Over Me,” but now incorporated her vocals.
Her voice, pure and captivating, carried the audience into an ecstatic reverie.
The “songs of worship,” featuring repeated lines such as “I give you all” and wordless melodies, gracefully danced upon strains that transitioned from brooding to joyful, sometimes punctuated by dramatic staccato passages or gentle sways.
The cello and violin lines also found moments of prominence, further enhancing the classical expression of pure Romanticism.
For 45 minutes, the performance unfolded without beats, until Michael England’s remarkable footage was projected onto the cinema screen behind AFRODEUTSCHE.
The effect was hypnotic, with layered string lines intertwining with images of metal gears, accompanied by simple breakbeats.
A Morricone-esque keyboard line emerged, revealing glimpses of joyous spiritual salvation as it harmonised with rising piano figures.
As the piece approached its conclusion, 808 beats and squelchy Acid House sounds emerged, while the strings maintained their dramatic adagio strains.
On-screen, images of bodies bound and writhing in bicycle inner tubes further intensified the visual spectacle.
The climax arrived as the screen became overwhelmed by images of raging flames.
The finale was met with passionate applause, leaving a profound sense that something special had just been witnessed.
AFRODEUTSCHE’s artistic journey has been a remarkable one.
Originally an itinerant classically trained musician, she eventually found inspiration in Manchester’s vibrant dance and jazz scenes.
It is fitting that she has discovered a personal release through this collaboration with Manchester’s most forward-thinking and innovative chamber orchestra, the Manchester Camerata.
With such an amazing start to life at Factory International, I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.
You can check out their line up by clicking here.