South African band, Kongos, is on their first major headlining American tour, and on February 12, along with supporting bands, Sir Sly and Colony House, they hit the Electric Factory stage in Philadelphia. The road trip, billed The Lunatic Tour, is in support of their breakthrough album of the same name.
Nashville, Tennessee band, Colony House, kicked of the show with their stripped down, low tech, old school sound that still sounded fresh and relevant with songs “Keep on Keeping On”, “Second Guesses”, and “Caught Me By Surprise” from their debut album When I Was Younger. A softer tune, “Glorious” preceded a final flurry of songs that included their biggest hit to date, “Silhouettes”. After a quick stage transformation, Sir Sly took the stage bursting with energy. The streamlined set included “Inferno”, “Ghost”, “Too Far Gone”, “Bloodlines”, a birthday cake with the band and audience singing “Happy Birthday” to multi-instrumentalist Jason Suwito and just enough crowd surfing from front man Landon Jacobs to tweak the interest of the front-of-house security detail were all highlights before a big ending with their breakout song “Gold”.
The four brothers that comprise KONGOS, Dylan Kongos (bass guitar, vocals), Daniel Kongos (guitar, vocals), Jesse Kongos (drums, percussion, vocals), and Johnny Kongos (accordion, keyboard, vocals) were arranged on stage in a straight line, no one ahead of another, no one dead center; everyone equal. They opened their set with “Hey I Don’t Know”, sung by Jesse from behind the drum kit, and the driving blues rhythm immediately got much of the crowd, in the almost stuffed to capacity venue, erupting in blissful reverie.
Dylan took the lead vocals for “Sex on the Radio” and the tune was peppered with crafty slide guitar from Daniel that went well with the flowing accordion melody by Johnny.. Driving internationally spiced beats and inspiring accordion continued with “Kids These Days”, before Johnny Kongos switched back to keyboards for a dreamy version of “Escape”. The band announced that they were working on a new album, and Dylan and Daniel switched instruments for a new song titled “I Don’t Mind” and then brought it down a notch for an almost acoustic version of the tender “Traveling On”. The audience again erupted for their big time hit, “Come With Me Now” that had big solos from Daniel on guitar and Johnny on the accordion. Fans voted online for a Beatles cover and the winner was “Eleanor Rigby” and the classic tune was done up in true Kongos style, multi-cultural beats with jazz and funk accents and a rap interlude featuring the band’s stage manager Mo Gordon.
Another new song, a real head-banger, “Take It From Me” and another big song from the Lunatic album, “I’m Only Joking” that featured spiraling smoke rings shot over the audience from backstage every time the line “What are you smoking” came up in the song ended the set. Kongos remerged for an encore that began with a homage to their father, singer-songwriter John Kongos with “Tokoloshe Man”, the senior Kongos’ 1971 hit. The encore ended with another cleverly rearranged cover, New Order’s “Blue Monday”, given a complete Kongos makeover complete with whimsical accordion and scorching slide guitar. KONGOS certainly showed that they are more than capable of headlining a national, if not international tour with a show that mixed their unique multi-genre sound with a great a light show, video screens and some very cool smoke machine effects.
Photos by Richard Clarke