LONDON – Attending my first concert headlined by Afrobeats singer Rema at the O2 Arena, London’s renowned venue in Greenwich was a bittersweet experience.
Getting to the arena was hectic. I had to squeeze myself onto the packed Jubilee line, sweating throughout the journey.
My expectations were high as Rema took the stage for his “Ravage Uprising” theme, performing Nov. 14 in front of a sold-out 20,000-capacity arena.
Anticipation filled the air as Rema – the mere 23-year-old who has achieved remarkable success in his short career – took the stage.
But Rema’s stage design, resembling a bat-like structure in the arena sky, created a detached setting that, unfortunately, felt more like a quick rehearsal than a grand performance.
Securing tickets just a month prior to the event felt like an accomplishment, but my anxiety set in when they hadn’t arrived by concert day. Luckily, the efficient ticket box office saved the day, printing tickets hassle-free. The venue efficiently managed the massive crowd, making entry surprisingly quick.
The disappointment set in when Rema started more than an hour late despite telling his audience to be “on time” for the concert prior – playing into the well-known joke within African communities of “African timing.”
During the wait, DJs on stage played popular Afrobeat songs, building excitement, but this slowly dragged on as the anticipation for Rema’s appearance grew.
Rema’s performance began intriguingly, with a black cage appearing on stage. He emerged inside the cage on top of a horse, wearing a black cloak and mask, starting with the track “DND”’ and successfully stirring excitement in the audience.
My seat was great, providing a clear view of the stage and the packed audience floor below.
Rema neglected to perform many songs from his Rave and Roses album, leaving fans longing for the tracks they had eagerly streamed in preparation for the event.
But the performance wasn’t entirely terrible. He performed hits like “Calm Down” and “Charm,” but only towards the end.
I also enjoyed songs from Rema’s new EP, such as “DND” and “Don’t Leave.”
Despite the visually stunning dancers and creative visuals, the overall performance felt dull at times and failed to meet my expectations set by Rema’s impressive discography.
This experience left a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth, but the redeeming factor came when Ayra Starr, another well-known Afrobeats singer, joined the show.
Her brilliant vocals and captivating stage presence provided a much-needed highlight in an otherwise underwhelming night.
Rema’s consistent breaks between songs and the unexpected shifts in musical styles, incorporating rock interludes, added to the disjointed nature of the concert.
A YouTube livestream took place with over 38,000 viewers during the performance, making me momentarily wish I was one of them.
Luckily, eating beforehand proved wise due to the strict “no food and drink” policy and the exorbitant prices inside the venue. One bag of popcorn cost almost the same amount of money as a restaurant meal for one.
Amid the underwhelmed audience, I found myself sitting down at times. I couldn’t help but laugh during Rema’s notable screech throughout the performance, at times seeming like a wake-up call to the audience. At one point, he paused the concert to remind the audience it wasn’t just a Rema concert but a “Rema party.”
Rema’s attempt to introduce his new EP, Ravage, marked a notable shift in musical style, transitioning to a more energetic, rock-influenced Afrobeat vibe.
This artistic evolution, while commendable, seemed out of place for an audience eager to enjoy his classic Afrobeat hits.
Despite the ups and downs, this concert served as a lesson for Rema to improve, offering a glimpse into his evolving artistry. The concert might not have been a definitive moment in his career, but it certainly marked a unique chapter.
Anjola Fashawe is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.