Tony Allen brings 'Kindness' to the Cedar stage, 4/23/11

Tony Allen brings 'Kindness' to the Cedar stage, 4/23/11

"Monumental," "transcendent," and "unbelievable." These were the words I kept hearing in my head in between all the horn vamps, polyrhythmic shuffles, and body movements that were born of the powerful display on the Cedar Cultural Center's stage this Saturday courtesy of Tony Allen and his seven-piece band.

The 70-year-old Allen, along with a crew of horn, keyboard, bass and guitar players from all around the world including Africa 70 guitarist Oghene Kologbo, were rounding out a three-day stay in the Twin Cities that included a performance for Project Success on Thursday and last night's final stop of his short U.S. tour. Bringing a rich, authentic Afrobeat sound (a style he himself invented), the band turned the Cedar's packed house into the legendary '70s era Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria for a solid two-hour workout for all those lucky enough to have a ticket to the sold-out show.

Tony Allen brings 'Kindness' to the Cedar stage, 4/23/11

With much finesse and abandon, things started off at a simmer. Elongated jams warmed up the stiff Minnesota crowd, who were working out their springtime jitters on the dance floor despite being a little awestruck at the treasured drummer's presence on stage. Things got moving in the first of two sets Saturday night with Allen standards "Asiko," "Alutere" and the poignant "Kindness," on into more of the band's favorites that even included a call-and-response nod to the Edwin Starr hallmark, "War."


"People have asked me to talk a bit more, to explain my songs, so I want to tell you about 'Kindness' which we played earlier," the typically mic-shy drummer peeped up in the second set. "Kindness is a oneness thing. Kindness connects us. Kindness mon, yes weakness." He counted off the band to reprise the piece, which became somewhat of an anthem of the evening for the Minnesota nice dancing mass that was reaching a sweaty fever pitch.

Tony Allen brings 'Kindness' to the Cedar stage, 4/23/11
photos by Julie Carson

After another dose of long but satisfying grooves the band finally relented, with the audience showing more than gratitude and almost not allowing for the band to exit and say their fond farewells. As worked up as everyone was at this point, the party could have easily gone all night -- as it would've back in Allen's days with Fela with the music taking over everyone's mood, perfectly complimenting the spirit and pleasure of the holiday weekend and the dawning of the warmer climate. For his first time playing in the Twin Cities Tony Allen and company truly made the night an unforgettable experience, and one that will be recalled for time to come.

Tony Allen "Kindness"

Critics' Bias: Having met two of my other favorite drum heroes in the past, Elvin Jones and Lloyd Knibbs (Skatalites), I found it a great honor to get to know Tony while he was in town. He is a true living legend unparralelled by anyone.
The Crowd: Black, White, Puerto Rican...everyone was just a'freakin'!
Overheard in the crowd: "Some people here really need to loosen up."
Random notebook dump: "Now that's a successful use of a keytar."
Set list:
Tony Allen brings 'Kindness' to the Cedar stage, 4/23/11

Tony Allen brings 'Kindness' to the Cedar stage, 4/23/11

Tony Allen brings 'Kindness' to the Cedar stage, 4/23/11

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