I went to my first P-Square concert this past weekend when the Nigerian sensations, twins Peter and Paul Okoye, kicked off their US tour in Washington D.C. The show was to start at 9pm but the duo only appeared on stage at 1:20 am – nearly 5 hours after the advertised start time. The rest of the night turned out to be what I can best describe as a frustrating concert experience.
Nowadays, I know that it is expected that bands at many concerts do not start right on the advertised time so I wasn’t expecting them to start exactly at 9:00pm. In fact, it has become almost acceptable for artists to be late and audiences today react by showing up late as well. I showed up on time because my sisters and I wanted to get a nice spot near the front, use the time to get some drinks, listen to the opening acts, and catch up with the eight other friends we were meeting that night.
When we entered Echostage at 9:00pm and the concert hall wasn’t filled to capacity – I know that, traditionally, Africans are not the most punctual crowd of people so I wasn’t surprised that fans started trickling in through the night but the venue was filled by 10:30pm which means the opening acts could have started by then.
Instead, for nearly four hours, the DJs at the show played an assortment of pop music, reggae, and African music to entertain the crowd. Ironically, the DJ had few African songs on his playlist when typically concert venues play songs that are in the same genre as their headlining artist to set the ambiance.
Needless to say, when the few African songs came on, the crowd went wild and danced. However, this excitement was short-lived as the DJ would later default to playing strictly popular music. In fact, he didn’t seem to understand an African audience at all and was quite out of touch with the crowd – they seemed to use a one-size-fits-all approach for playing to all Black audiences (after all, all black audiences are the same, right?).
In between the music, two unknown individuals (they may have been from Quiet As Kept Productions but since they never bothered to introduce themselves, I’ll call them “promoters”) would get on the microphone and try to energize the crowd. Initially, the audience was receptive to the two promoters, but by the end of the night they were getting heckled by the fans who were quickly disintegrating in to an angry mob.
The Fans turn in to Mobs
The audience chanted for P-Square to come out and could not be placated by the visibly frustrated promoters whose voices were now being deafened by the fans. The DJ then started to play a series of uncoordinated songs – hoping he would play the right song that would appease the crowd. Two women from Barbados who had been near us, were so upset they decided to go home shortly after midnight (I later found out that they were not the only ones who left).
After waiting patiently for the first few hours, when we saw commotion on stage at 12:30 am we finally thought P-Square was about to come on. Instead, the opening acts came out to face what was now practically an irate audience. Even though it wasn’t their fault, all the opening acts got heckled and booed. One performer was so frustrated at the crowd’s reaction that she cut her performance half way through and abandoned her act.
When P-Square finally pranced on the stage it was 1:20am and the crowd was a former skeleton of themselves. Fans were tired from waiting on their feet four hours – I was wearing flats and my feet hurt whilst others in heels taken crouching down in fetal position through the night. They were also sober – there were no lines at the bar – which meant that they were too upset to drink and no were no longer having fun. The group was cheered on when they came on – although one in my party booed them, however, it was clear that they had lost the momentum of the crowd.
The performance was also marred by a posse of managers, promoters, photographers, and stage hands – some taking selfies, others just watching – seemingly hanging around doing nothing but being a distraction to an audience who were wondering who the extras on stage were and what they were doing.
Lastly, in what was meant to be a kind gesture, they threw gifts to the crowd which was largely clothing items. However, throwing heavy shoes and CDs (in cases) to audiences is not only dangerous, but grounds for a lawsuit for fans who now stood to lose an eye or suffer other head injuries.
Overall, the performance itself was fun and upbeat with Paul proving to be a talented musician in spite of the poor sound quality that night. Peter equally entertained the audience with his ‘bad boy’ tactics. They played popular hits such as ‘E No Easy’, ‘Alingo’ and ‘Chop My Money (I don’t care)’. However, it took a while for people to really get in to it and by the end of the night I felt that P-Square had indeed chopped my money. I heard many unrelated people comment that they would not go to another P-Square concert. This goes to show that when it comes to respecting their fans, the group, the promoters and concert venue can do much better or they will lose them.
My experience at the P-Square concert is not entirely new, venues often print one time on the ticket, and start the show at a later time purposefully. It is an unfortunate pattern at concerts where there is a lack of trust between artists, fans, and venue owners. Venue owners and groups expect the audience to be late. They don’t want the group to start too early because sometimes fans get caught in traffic or get caught up in other mishaps that may cause them to miss the start of the show.
But their primary reason for doing this is money – they anticipate that fans will spend money buying drinks with a delayed start time. The groups themselves also have an incentive to a late start. First, they prefer to play in front of more people rather than less. Second, their egos may get the best of them and they want to build up the crowd’s anticipation for their arrival and performance.
However, starting close to five hours late seems to have pushed the limits on these strategies. Simply speaking, they miscalculated dismally. Their tactics broke down at the concert because people were too upset to patronize the bar or really enjoy the concert. It was ludicrous to expect people to wait that long for a concert – and before anyone utters “African Time”, this lateness was unusual even for African artists of that stature. When I saw Sauti Sol who played at the Coca Cabana in Maryland earlier this year, they advertised for 9:00 pm but started by midnight.
There is a plethora of other African artists – some with bigger names – that start exactly on time or within the hour of the advertised time (with or without an opening act). Other African artists that I have seen such as Oliver Mtukudzi, Hugh Maskela, Brenda Fassie, Freshly Ground and Lira, to name a few, have no problem with starting on time. They respect their audience and their time.
For the African audience in DC, consideration needs to be made that metros stop running, babysitters need to get relieved, jobs need to be reported to, and others had to go to church the next day – people simply don’t have indefinite flexibility with their time or money.
At $50 per ticket, the entire concert experience (not just the music) needs to be worth the time and money – one could have seen Damian Marley on the same night for half the price without the time issues. Two of my friends noted on Facebook that they did not go to this P-Square show because the last one they saw, in Malawi and Washington DC respectively, started excessively late too.
Artists shouldn’t underestimate the importance of their fans. Davido learned this the hard way when he tweeted that he was “bored” in Malawi and a video surfaced of him not bothering to acknowledge screaming pre-teen fans. Malawian DJs stopped playing his music and fans vowed not to patronize his concerts. This is how artists become trends without long term earning potential.
We love the group, but P-Square needs to put on a more serious show that will leave fans wanting to return. Their lack of apology or acknowledgment of their lateness may indicate that they may not care. However, this will certainly affect their bottom line.
Judging from the feedback I saw on Ticketmaster site and on their Facebook page from fans, other fans indicated that they will not return either and one American fan indicated they wanted their money back. If P-Square isn’t cautious, these experiences will start to affect their bottom line – the dwindling fans at concerts will surely chop their money.