Staff Benda Belili
Dylan Tighe (support act)
6th December 2014
Well done to the organisers of the DaDa International Festival for getting
this irrepressible Congolese combo to come to Liverpool's most prestigious
music venue. Staff Benda Belili are on a European tour with tonight the
only gig in the UK, as their tour manager Stefan explained when I caught
up with him.
The concert was in two halves, with support act Dylan Tighe on first.
Hailing from Ireland, but living in Boston, USA, the affable singer, armed
with his guitar, sang titles from his 2014 debut album Record, charting
his brush with, and overcoming of, the debilitating effects of mental
illness. In clever lyrics about family, societal and institutionalised
recognition and treatment of the condition, and it's effect on the individual,
his songs added a fresh take on the problems fellow sufferers have to
After the interval the headliners came onto the stage to rapturous applause.
Having starred all over the world, and at festivals like Glastonbury and
Womad, it was a bit surreal to see them on stage here tonight. They lined
up in two rows: wheechairs and crutch bearing guitarists and/or singers
at the front; drums, generic percussion and one stringed electric lute,
(looking like a cross between a tea pot and a watering can), at the rear.
This last instrument is the plaything of Roger Landu, street foundling
and musician extraordinaire, taken in by the band on the poverty stricken
streets of Kinshasa, were the disabled and disadvantaged have to look
out for themselves. (All of this is brilliantly captured in a French film
which came out in 2010.) Tonight though, with no introductions, they blasted
out their anthems of Congolese slum rumba, Cuban swing and psychedelic
exotica with a no holds barred exuberance and energy in a wall of noise;
the exponential embodiment of the effort put in.
The venue, recently refurbished and still smelling of newness, was a
little bit unfortunate in that it was not packed out to see what was the
showcase finale to three weeks of performances across the city, for and
by the disabled and deaf flagship, celebrating it's 30th year.
That there was no wheelchair access to the bar, (no lifts), did not deflect
from the enthusiasm of those attending, and this was further accommodated
after the concert in an impromptu foyer bar and get together for a chat
and photographs, with some group members.
Overall it was a very enjoyable night and a long one, as the audience
danced in the isles and seats, to the infectious rhythms emanating from
the stage, kept everyone wanting more. The standing ovation at the end