Live Music + Gig Reviews

Youssou N’Dour @ Union Chapel, London

21 December 2002

Youssou N'Dour

Youssou N’Dour

Something special was needed to offer an escape from the stubborn drizzle on a dank London night – not to mention get The Cheeky Song out of my head. A colossus of African music, a fabulous venue and an enthusiastic audience turned out to be just what the doctor ordered, and was the perfect recipe for pre-Christmas joy.

The Senegalese vocalist Youssou N’Dour and a colourful coterie of musicians and backing singers looked amazing under the domed, stain-glassed splendour of this unique concert hall. For two-and-a-half hours, N’Dour and company’s music blew away the cobwebs – and those pesky Transylvanian twins.

A performer who manages to get the audience to their feet by the third song definitely has that certain something. N’Dour’s powerful, soaring vocals melded together effortlessly with a delicious combination of percussion, guitars, keyboards and backing vocals. A non-stop set set the place alive and had the chapel’s pews writhing with a throng of dancing and clapping. Despite this being the last date of a two-month tour, N’Dour gave it his all.

The energy of Africa died down, as an interlude of ballads with a distinct sound of the West held sway and settled the audience back into their seats. N’Dour treated us to a rendition of his worldwide hit 7 Seconds, but Neneh Cherry failed to materialise. Her shoes were filled by one of his stunning backing singers, who was given a frontline role like all the musicians. His percussionists astounded, while another vocalist was handed some money for a remarkable stint of praise-singing.

N’Dour cranked up the pace at the gig’s end after his third costume change – and had everyone dancing again, and I mean everyone in the house. But he ended on a spine-tingling anthem to Africa, both poignant and joyous. N’Dour must have been relieved that he was returning home after this concert – but he showed no signs of fatigue. The audience left energised and pleased to have been there, taking away a piece of African magic for Christmas.

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Youssou N’Dour @ Union Chapel, London