Femi's father, the legendary Fela Kuti, built the Shrine so the people of Lagos, Nigeria, would have a place to party and protest. The CD/DVD combo Live at the Shrine captures Fela's talented son in performance there by patching together footage of numerous "Sunday Jumps," a club night at the Shrine that is part concert, part rally, total effervesce, and completely alive. Borrowing some ideas from the classic Woodstock film, director Raphael Frydman often utilizes split screens, combining side-by-side images that are the same shot from different sides or the same song from different nights. It's that latter effect that's jarring at first as Femi-on-the-left and Femi-on-the-right look to be from the same performance but then break off kaleidoscope style. Sometimes the performances are so closely matched it looks like one Femi is slowly falling out of phase with the other, but none of Frydman's visual trickery would be worth it if it weren't for the compelling heart and soul of the performers. Femi is sometimes mistaken for a Fela-lite. As if the shorter, more succinct, more contemporary structure of his songs didn't alert you to the differences, Live at the Shrine will fill out Femi's personality in a way none of his albums have. There are the interviews that paint him as revolutionary artist with enough humor and hedonism to still be a man of the people. More than that, there's the music and the way it is delivered. Hypnotic, uplifting rhythms from the band combine with Femi's direct and poignant lyrics while his colorfully decorated background singers whirl in dance. Songs stir themselves into a frenzy and Femi's fierce saxophone skills get ample time. Looking like a mix of airport hanger, church, and gymnasium, the Shrine itself is a sight to behold and is filled with a surging audience that leaps and dances with exuberance. Frydman inserts plenty of scenes of the off-hours Shrine and all the unique characters who make the "Sunday Jumps" happen, including Fela's daughters. Seeing the members of the extended Kuti clan brings to mind the Marley family and how the performers in that family are always compared to their father when it's really the family spirit that they're blessed with. Having longtime Fela associate, sound engineer, and producer Sodi perfectly capture the elaborate sound for Femi like he did for his father furthers the Kuti dynasty feel. The film is stunning and there's an uplifting, music-only CD of the shows packed in, so if you're interested in or need to reconsider Femi, the brilliant Live at the Shrine is a must.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2