OLIVER Mtukudzi and Alick Macheso’s heavyweight tour of the UK concluded in front of nearly 2,000 adoring fans in Leicester early Sunday.
The two concerts in London and Leicester – watched by a real heavyweight in the form of boxer Dereck Chisora – drew record crowds.
In London, over 1,300 fans were crammed into the Oasis Banqueting which in the end proved an unsuitable venue as the air conditioning failed to cope with the massed humanity. Fans were roasting, the artists were cooking.
So stuffy was the environment that the crowd overflowed onto the stage in a bid to catch some fresh air – and one reveller spilled a drink on electric cables, interrupting Macheso’s performance.
Macheso resumed his performance after 10 minutes – but on a dark stage after the electric short circuit blew up a fuse for the stage lighting.
If London left promoters filled with regrets, Leicester was the complete opposite – and both Mtukudzi and Macheso thrived in the stunning Athena, one of the best concert venues the two men have ever graced.
Just like in London, Mtukudzi went on stage first, serenading fans with some of his timeless hits, interrupted with the occasional burst of some of his more up-tempo tunes including Tozeza and Madiro.
Mtukudzi’s Black Spirits band, which has undergone some radical changes, featured an all-men line-up – and the superstar cleverly avoided songs with a heavy female influence where Namatayi Chipanga previously filled in.
But Mtukudzi can get away with it, as he did, because his discography is wide and deep. Missing from the song list were tracks like Todii, Ndagara Nhaka and Pindurai Mambo, but he doesn’t lack for replacements. Mbombera and Hossana elicited the same response from fans who had not seen him for slightly over a year.
If Mtukudzi is a legend everywhere, then Macheso is a god in Leicester in particular. On all his previous UK tours, Leicester has always been Macheso’s favourite hunting ground.
The Chitungwiza-based star delights not only with his music but his guitar skills, and many who grew up in the era of Leonard Dembo and James Chibadura find in Macheso a throw-back to their youth.
Ezra Tshisa Sibanda, who put together the two gigs, said: “Not since Brenda Fassie and Oliver Mtukudzi performed in Milton Keynes in 2003 have we seen a bigger attendance to a Zimbabwe show in the United Kingdom.
“The success of these gigs is a testament to the two artists’ greatness.”
Macheso flew back to Zimbabwe on Sunday night while Mtukudzi, who left London on Monday, embarks on a month-long tour of the United States and Canada.
As they left, the UK braced for Thomas Mapfumo’s gigs in London on July 27 and Leicester on July 28.
Sell-out ... Fans packed into the Athena in Leicester for Mtukudzi and Macheso's gig
Show-off ... Macheso employs his elbow to play the guitar