Eddie Kadi at the O2 Arena

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Julian Hall

For such an audacious gig from a relative unknown, Congolese comedian Eddie Kadi's well-publicised show at London’s O2 Arena is a pretty laid-back affair. With creditworthy ticket sales of 8,000 in a venue with a capacity of around 20,000, perhaps the 27-year-old comedian could relax in the knowledge that his event had already won plaudits for its publicity value alone, even breaking into the top five stories on the BBC News website on the day.

Kadi’s route to this arena gig was marked with sell-out stints at the Hackney Empire, Hammersmith Apollo and two nights at O2’s sister venue the IndigO2, a reminder of the pulling power of the stars of the black comedy circuit. ‘There are going to be a lot more Eddie Kadis,’ says veteran Felix Dexter – and on the evidence of how tonight was put together I think he's right.

This gig feels more like an indoor festival than a theatre show. It's essentially a very relaxed chat show with guests punctuating the stand-up. Among those guests are rapper Tinie Tempah, Diane Parish (Denise Johnson in EastEnders), saxophonist Yolanda Brown and a Dappy-less N-Dubz. While their talents are well known to wider audiences, the talents of Kadi are what must hold it together.

The opening sequence where Kadi wakes up to his stage set, meant to replicate his house (complete with house band), doesn’t bode well, being under-rehearsed and further blunted by poor sound. When Kadi emerges in one of the many outfits he will wear tonight (on this occasion a bright blue Silky shirt and pink tie) he attempts to find his feet with a routine about the seduction techniques of the British man, the African man and the West Indian man. It’s a bit nervy and jumpy, but the physicality of the routine settles him enough for his subsequent segment about growing up in the Congo, including how vague his relatives were about their ages and their sanguine attitude towards the notion of pets, especially goats, which would often find their way into a cooking pot.

With some momentum gathered, Kadi brings on his first guest Eric Obuh, aka Nigerian rapper Vocal Slender, who made a BBC documentary Welcome to Lagos detailing the poverty in some parts of the capital. Kadi knows that we are here for comedy and while he lets his guest speak of his work, he is keen to not leave the laughs too far behind and tries to get his guest to teach us some ‘pidgin’ before reverting Slender back to English by saying ‘let those pidgins fly away’, a remark that wakes me up to Kadi's comic reflexes.

After a performance by Congolsese pop star Mohombi, Kadi emerges back out on stage in a gaudy tracksuit (with ‘Kadidas’ emblazoned across the back) and goes into a riff about going to the Job Centre, again quite a physical one that explores the posture adopted when walking in to sign on, and goes on to personify the type of cheap bread that you can only afford on the dole.

The Peridot dance troupe, featured on Britain's Got Talent, then do a stint that includes a dance-off with Mohombi's dancers, orchestrated by Kadi, after which the comedian works his celebrity audience a little. Hip-hop star Chipmunk, Tinchy Stryder and footballer-turned rapper-Kano all get asked some fairly anodyne questions and oblige with some anodyne responses.

Aware of the pressures of time, Kadi hurries on to his next sequence where he contests that he once had a promising career in music but various people kept nicking his tunes. The most coherent examples of this are In Tesco to the tune of Usher's Love In This Club and Passport to Tinie Tempah's Pass Out. Rather than bring Tempah on at this point the next guest is Diane Parish who gets time to have some surface chat with Kadi, get an appeal in for black leukemia charity ACLT, and re-enact a scene from EastEnders with Kadi, giving the comedian licence to over-act, a tendency that is mercifully more endearing than grating.

Saxophonist Yolanda Brown follows before Tinie Tempah’s rousing rendition of Pass Out, which he admitted he ‘stole’ from Kadi. The final guests are N-Dubz without Dappy which fits Kadi's ruse that he wants to become their newest member and replace him, re-working their hit Number One to Number Two.

Just before being overtaken by time, Kadi gets in a final routine about travelling on Air Kenya, thereby unwittingly subverting the notion that you do your airplane material first, and the show ends as modestly as it began, but to much appreciation from his audience, who have punctuated his gig with the laughter of recognition throughout.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the conveyor belt of acts, two and a half hours has passed quickly. Sometimes Kadi has been frenzied and unfocused but always appreciated it seems. He's hinted at a sharp eye for comedy without every giving a sustained look at what his talent can do or given it time to breathe. He has entertained 8.000 people, though, with a little help from his friends.

Review date: 5 Sep 2010
Reviewed by: Julian Hall
Reviewed at: O2 Arena

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