Event Review: Ezra Collective @ Eventim Apollo (London; Friday, 24th February 2023)

If I were asked to describe Ezra Collective’s London show in one word, I would probably say “joy”. The show was technically sold out twice: originally planned at the O2 Academy Brixton, it eventually took place 24 February at Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith. 

The show opens with trumpet player Ife Ogunjobi and tenor saxophonist James Mollison blowing from the balcony and quickly joining the others downstairs to formally start getting loose with “Ego Killah”. Drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso also helps us right away to unwind after what was probably a bad day in the office: “I know this morning you probably didn’t want to come because you were tired or sad or saw it was cloudy, but I’m glad you’re here. Now, I want you to say hi to the person next to you and ask them what their name is”. Friends were made. 

For almost two hours, Ezra Collective plays tracks from their recent album Where I’m Meant To Be (2022), together with some old tunes across their entire discography, radiating an energetic joy. This energy is equally felt in the circle seats, where song after song people start standing up to dance or move, just like the standing crowd downstairs. Femi himself describes the venue as a “temple of joy” at some point, rightly so. 

After their version of Sun Ra’s “Space Is The Place”, singer Emeli Sandé joins them on stage in a warming live version of “Siesta”. Towards the end, Kinetika Bloco – a performance group mostly composed of young people from South London – come up on stage alongside Ezra and offer an electrifying conversation between the 20 or so musicians on stage, coupled with brief impressive and confident solos from Kinetika. 

Ezra’s live performance is vibrant, captivating and never hesitant, while Femi and bassist TJ Koleoso alternating words are representative of the fact that they care about the audience, the community, parents that let kids cultivate their talent, music. If data is telling the truth, there are around 5000 people in the room, but frankly this is my definition of an intimate gig.


Photo ©: Aliyah Otchere