Even as early as ten o’clock yesterday morning there were signs that everything was not in order for the Akon-Sean Paul Real Deal concert slated for that evening. Supporting artists who were supposed to start performing at midday were still milling about at the Meikles Hotel, waiting to get their accreditation tags. By the time Sean Paul, and then Akon, stepped out onto the stage later in the day to wild screams from 19 000 fans, it had been a long day for everyone.
Eager fans, who arrived at the National Sports Stadium early were kept waiting outside till around 5pm, as workmen frantically finished setting up the stage. At the Meikles Hotel, where media and artists were being accredited, things were over an hour behind- actually over a day behind, as artists who were supposed to have been accredited the day before, had not been and some media practitioners who had been waiting for accreditation since Thursday- were still waiting.
Outside the hotel, oblivious to all this, die hard fans kept vigil all day, screaming their heads off each time someone who looked like Akon or Sean Paul appeared on the balcony.
To cut the long story short, it was only at 2115 hrs- eight hours after the advertised time- that the show kicked off with a performance by Urban Grooves duo, Xtra Large. They were welcomed with rapturous applause by a crowd that obviously wanted to have a good time and they did not disappoint.
They were followed by Winky D just after 2130hrs. He got the crowd jumping to his catchy dancehall tunes. After him came Urban Groovers Trevor Dongo, Cindy, Ex Q and Leonard Mapfumo, who also put on a great show, helping each other with their hit songs Maidei, Nerudo and others.
Zambian rapper, Swagger and a fellow Zimbabwean Hip Hop artist put on a poor act and were booed and received some empty-flying-beer-can treatment, but they stuck it out bravely till the end of their set.
Stunner, who was supposed to have performed as well, could not wait as he had a flight to catch- off to South Africa where he performed at the Big Brother All Stars eviction show.
Just a minute after eleven, Sean Paul came on and the stadium erupted into loud cheers. The crowd near the stage surged forward and the metal barricade demarcating the stage area moved with them. The security guards leapt into action and pushed back.
You know the scenes you see on music videos of people getting beyond themselves from just being starstruck? There was plenty of that going on. People holding their heads and screaming their lungs out, while others stood there totally stunned that this was really him, world dance hall king, performing right in front of them.
Those who were outside the stadium all of a sudden were scrambling to get inside. People who had been falling asleep on the terraces jumped up. This was it! Finally!
“We could see on the screens that he was putting his all into it, but we couldn’t really hear him,” said a fan who was up on the terraces, “commenting on the poor sound quality that marred the show for those who were not on the field.
That did not kill the spirit for many of them however, and after straining to hear what song he was singing each time, they would sing along in the terraces, jumping along with the rest of the crowd on the ground. His dancing girls added to the energy of the performance with their well choreographed moves.
For one hour twenty minutes, he totally rocked the National Sports Stadium and left his fans craving for more.
There was then an hour long break where Sean Paul’s equipment was removed from the stage, and Akon’s people came on to set it up for the evening – now morning’s -main act. The crowd grew impatient and started chanting: “Akon! Akon! Akon!”
When he finally appeared, just after 0120hrs earlier this morning, the screams were deafening. The push towards the stage increased and the metal barriers started falling apart. The energy in the stadium was unbelievable, with people singing along to every song.
Fans went absolutely crazy when Akon rolled out onto the crowd in a big plastic ball and did a different kind of crowd surfing. They went even more ballistic when, shirtless he leapt out into the audience.
He kept the tempo of the show high- except when he stopped to ask the police to stop using batons to control the fans and then later when he asked them to remove the metal barriers as he thought they were becoming a danger to the fans.
Disappointing though, for many fans, was the fact that he used backtracks for his performance, some which included vocals. The only other band members he had on stage were a drummer, a guitar player and a DJ. Of the three, the DJ did most of the work.
The biggest disappointment for those who attended was the poor organisation which led to security glitches, the late start of the show, the big delay between Sean Paul and Akon’s performances and technical problems.
Reactions from those who attended the show were mixed, with many stating the late start as having taken away from the experience of the show. “Now we have to go home at 3 in the morning,” said two female fans. “How are we going to get transport?”
Many were so excited at having seen Akon and Sean Paul perform live that everything else didn’t matter. Others said they had had the time of their lives. As Akon and his convoy of cars sped up Samora Machel Avenue back into town they were still talking about the experience.
Our verdict? We were so not ready for a show of this magnitude. Yes, we had the money to pay for it, but we still need so much more technical input. Out of five stars, we give this show two.– The Zimbo Jam