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NOW Magazine | JUN 24 - 30, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 43

KIDJO BRINGS HEAT

BENIN'S SOUL SISTA NUMBER ONE WARMS UP CHILLED HARBOURFRONT CROWD

BY JASON RICHARDS

ANGELIQUE KIDJO with CARIDAD CRUZ at Harbourfront Centre, June 19. Tickets: $25. Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NNNN

It was colder than being cool at Harbourfront Centre 's outdoor stage at around 8 pm, when fire-spirited opener Caridad Cruz erupted into life. Stashed in the Latin artist's arsenal was a killer three-piece band, vicious mambo steps driving her voluptuous figure, a shimmering Beyoncé wig and a voice that could easily be confused with that of her namesake, elder Cuban music icon Celia Cruz.

Many in the audience were business-class bohemians with one common goal: to shut off their cellphones, forget what a fax machine sounds like and get loose. That's why people were catching the vapours, standing up and yelling "Azúcar!" and dancing at the sides.

It should be said that although Cruz was a blazing opener, the drawn-out double encore wasn't required.

After 45 minutes of dead air, the slight, sprightly and wholly wonderful Angélique Kidjo came out in a black pantsuit with bright red flares, gold jewellery adorning her neck and arms and matching her hair.

With her four-man band, she blasted right into uplifting songs from her new album, Oyaya! – Yoruba for joy.

"Now, you know the rules," said Kidjo in her mellifluous West African accent. "You gotta dance when you feel like it. And the reason you have to dance is because it's really cold, rig ht?"

They danced to her cover of Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile, and they danced to all the rest of her global jam-outs. For that matter, so did Kidjo, and she looked like she was having the time of her life.

While I dislike the term "world music" (what, did rock and roll begin on Jupiter?), Kidjo's four-language mastery of sounds from R&B to diaspora to salsa to compas to ska to jazz to rock does live up to it.

With her deep, wood-textured pipes, Kidjo (even though she had laryngitis that night, I later found out) was from start to finish a culture-shocking powerhouse – not to mention great fodder for water-cooler chit-chat Monday morning.

NOW | JUN 24 - 30, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 43

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