Ibeyi Central Presbyterian Church, Austin TX, March 20
Published Mar 21, 2015Ibeyi began their spectacular set inauspiciously, taking front and centre on the church's low stage and harmonizing on opener "Eleggua." Their voices were striking, especially in the spacious Central Presbyterian Church, but it couldn't have prepared the audience for just how captivating their live set would be.
Naomi sampled Lisa-Kaindé's voice for "Ghosts," their first song atop the cajón and behind the piano, respectively, and it was something to behold. Lisa- Kaindé's voice, particularly, is incredible, and backed by Naomi's sweet alto and propelled by her cajón, the song came to life. They didn't use an echo effect, instead singing phrases perfectly in sync as they floated their mouths away from their microphones as they sang, evincing the kind of creativity they'd use to achieve their intended sound throughout the set. A song later, on "Mama Says," Naomi pounded her cajón, legs and chest and snapped into the mics to provide rhythm.
The duo played two songs that didn't make their fantastic debut: the first featured a more electronic-based rhythm than anything on their record, including an aqueous bass effect that made it ominous; their second was an audience-clap-assisted piano storm, perhaps left off the record because its higher tempo might have upset the balance. Both were stunning.
It seemed like every song featured something extra to make it special live; Lisa-Kaindé got out from behind the piano to get the crowd clapping again for "River," and they played an updated, percussion-heavy version of "Oya" that relied more on groove than the structural verse-chorus album version. They also played their trademark cover of Jay Electronica's "Better in Tune with the Infinite" and an urgent take on "Weatherman," complete with rolling piano flourishes.
Before closing with the a cappella Yoruba traditional "Ibeyi," they thanked the sound people, the venue and the crowd, and asked the crowd if there were any twins in the audience. Lisa-Kaindé was shocked when nobody put up their hands: "We're the only ones!?"
They dedicated the song to twins and led the crowd through a drawn-out, call-and-response version of the song, walking into the church pews to sing and clap along with them. It was an interactive, imaginative set; Ibeyi are born performers.