The Kongos bring South African vibes to Irving Plaza

By Maryann Odete

via Heather Little
via Heather Little

The Kongos continued their first ever headlining North American tour on Feb. 15 at Irving Plaza to a packed concert hall. With doors opening late and concert goers getting fairly onerous in the cold, the night was off to a rocky start. Once the show started, the mood shift was notable.

Colony House, the first openers, were reminiscent of angst-ridden middle-school boy bands, but nonetheless held their own and provided an enjoyable set. Not the most exciting part of the evening, but a great crowd warmer for the better stuff that awaited Irving Plaza’s audience.

Sir Sly followed up this lukewarm reception with an intense performance, proving they are better live than they are recorded. At one point, front man Landon Jacobs stood on the edge of the balcony rail. It was the kind of intense, unadulterated rock that cannot possibly be contained by a recording.

Once the opening bands satiated the crowd’s appetite, The Kongos came out, greeted by a packed house and a rousing applause. Originating from South Africa, the unique alt-rock and kwaito sound the four brothers played so fervently permeated through the venue. The set consisted mostly of songs from their 2012 album “Lunatic,” with some surprise covers such as standout “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles. The brothers shared the spotlight to perfection, with all four singing substantial parts of each set. Encouraging an amazing vibe from the audience as they jumped and screamed out their lyrics, the symbiosis between artists and audience was as palpable as ever.

With an eclectic mix of soft and hard songs, there was no overly-pervasive emotion. The Kongos are most notable for, more than anything, keeping the style purely themselves. Individualistic music and fantastic stage presence guarantees there is so much more to come from these great musicians from across the sea.

Maryann Odete is a contributing writer. Email her at


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