Antibalas | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Antibalas, the 17-piece Afrobeat band from Brooklyn, have never made any secret of their slavish worship of Fela Kuti. From the expansive James Brown-inspired vamps to the tightly coiled rhythms to the politics seething beneath the party, they seem determined to carry the torch, even if they're mistaken for a tribute band now and again. On their brand-new second album, Talkatif (Ninja Tune), they do little to distance themselves from their primary influence. The cover art is by Ghariokwu Lemi, who did the artwork for many of Fela's albums, the stuttering spray of beats sounds like it was played by Fela's rhythmic coconspirator Tony Allen, and the incantatory vocals by Duke Amayo on the title track clearly ape the propulsive chanting of the late bandleader. The upshot is that there's no better way to experience uncut Afrobeat live these days; Allen has wandered off into the dubby ether, and Fela's son Femi, often hailed as his creative heir, has airbrushed away his dad's intensity. Plus Antibalas have improved markedly as a live band, thanks to hundreds of shows over the last few years; I heard them last summer at the Montreal Jazz Festival and couldn't believe they were the same group I'd seen here in the fall of '99. Friday, March 29, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Erin Patrice O'Brien.

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