text + photography: Sherron Shabazz
Nigerian-German singer Nneka made a recent tour stop at the Windy City’s Double Door. Backed by an all-male four-piece band, she took the stage just before 10:30 p.m. The mostly female audience sang and danced to every one of Nneka’s notes.
The 31-year-old singer played guitar herself throughout the set. No occasion was more memorable than her performance of the opening track Lucifer from her Soul is Heavy album. With conviction Nneka sang, “I am loving you more than I love myself. With your mouth you stole my soul so I cannot love myself.”
A political artist by nature, Nneka spoke to the audience in between songs about political corruption.
“Corruption has leaked into our bones,” said Nneka.
The highlight of the evening was Nneka’s cover of afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti’s “V.I.P.” (Vagabonds in Power). Covers can go awry, especially when interpreting the music of a legend, but Nneka and her band delivered.
Nneka and company briefly left the stage only to return for an encore that included a rendition of “Happy Birthday:” for her soundman of five years and her hit single “Heartbeat.”
Nneka put on a multi-faceted performance in Chicago. Her show was a mix of reggae, soul, and hip hop that clocked in at just over 60 minutes. She stopped at random moments to playfully interact with the audience or sensually sway her hips to the music to remind us that music isn’t just about social change; it can be fun, too.