Vibrantly gracing the Indigo O2 stage with his auditory magic, BNXN fka Buju closed off his most successful year with an unforgettable performance alongside some of the biggest names in UK entertainment. From leaving a desk job in pursuit of an artistic life, to rebranding so early in his career, BNXN is known to take the leap, and those moments have rewarded this passionate afro-fusion artist in ways few musicians live to see. Located in the well known Icon Outlet of the O2, with a standing capacity of 1800 and seated capacity of 2800, the Indigo O2 venue is an impressive upgrade from his concert at the 600-capacity Lafayette London.
One of the most enjoyable parts of attending a concert at the O2 is not having to wait until I was inside the arena to begin the experience. As I hopped off the Jubilee line, I noticed fans who exhibited a collective sense of style. Trailing through the Greenwich station and to the O2 was a crowd larger in comparison to the concert’s capacity. This crowd was evidence of another occasion but the walk to the venue was relatively calm. Immersed in the anticipation of a good night, I wafted through a growing buzz of excitement. With a long line of fans standing by the external walls of the Indigo O2, it wasn’t hard to miss the venue. I spent a few minutes passing the time at the Icon Outlet, which features many shops, bars, and restaurants. Once the venue was ready to take in the fans, the line moved pretty quickly.
The security process was swift but meticulous, resulting in light traffic at the entrance. With the option of taking the stairs or the lift, we were directed by staff to our allocated area on level two. Here, we were embraced by the familiar sounds of old and new school afrobeats from DJ So Good. Drinks at the bar were plenty but priced on the mid to high end of the pricing range for concert bars in London. The back of the seating area was lined with hip height tables where we rested for our first round of drinks, a spot most people found to be comfortable for a pre-concert chat with their friends. Dotted around were event stewards, one of whom was kind enough to show us to our seats, located at the bottom of a steep descent. I found myself comfortable in my cushy, spacious folding seat, where I was surrounded by a diverse group of people. Some were responsible for the infectious vibe of the arena, on their feet engaging with the talent on stage. Others like me kept the balance by enjoying the performance from the comfort of our seats. In sequence, white stage lights flashed in front of us, simultaneously giving us a sense of being a star and making us wonder whether our retinas needed protecting. It added character to the experience.
Kicking off the night with what could have been a show on its own, DJ So Good and BNXN’s very own DJ Emeezy teamed up MC Quads, MC Shopsy and Charlie Mase to warm up the crowd with their springy footwork, smooth moves and jocose disposition. Natalie Okri, K4MO, Highlyy, and Ade Josh honoured the stage as the supporting talent, all different in style, none failing to engage with an audience as sizeable as BNXN’s fans. The talented Keys The Prince, Dj OV, DJ Troublee, DJ Soulbeat and DJ Nina Davis graced the stage to support the artists and keep the party flowing. Sticking true to their individual brand, they set the tone and intensity of the night, delivering a rich variety of sounds for an authentic experience of black talent in the UK.
In preparation for BNXN’s performance, the band entered shortly after to take up their respective places on the left and right sides of the stage. This left plenty of room around BNXN’s platform, a minimally decorated space, neatly set up with a mic stand. After what felt like an endless string of suspenseful announcements by the MCs, the lights dimmed and a contrastingly white spotlight was added to indicate where we were to expect BNXN’s first appearance.
Entering the spotlight in a leathery ensemble, BNXN lightly jogged from backstage and hopped onto his platform to open up his performance with the title track Bad Since ‘97. BNXN brought to the stage his rockstar energy, feet stomping as he embraced the mic, swaying where the music took him. Enraptured by his talent, in parts the crowd on the second level slowly gathered to the front to get a closer look at his performance. A looped visual of Heads By BNXN NFTs towered behind the band as BNXN immersed himself in his diverse catalogue of 23 songs. This included a still performance dedicated to his 2019 song, Commander. The experience was laced with echoes of the crowd singing his every song, amplifying his transcendent performance. Fans were spoilt as BNXN introduced artists Darkoo, Headie One and Pheelz to grace his stage as his surprise guests. In their respective performances of Princess Cuts, Gangsta, and Juicy, Darkoo and Headie One captivated the audience who were so enthralled, that I almost lost sight of our main act. Despite the absence of featured artists One Acen, Young T, and Bugsey, both acts owned the stage and provided audiences with collaborative moments of their short performances. Wrapping up the line up of surprise guests, with enviable energy, BNXN and Pheelz performed their hit single Finesse, moving from one end of the stage to the other, lost in the crowd’s performance. The show suffered a few technical issues, but the talent’s collective ability to keep the crowd engaged smoothed out the overall experience..
On a spiritual high, BNXN concluded the night with arms wide open, posing for a memorable picture with the audience behind him. A few fans expressed that his stage exit was sudden but it is safe to say that none were left unsatisfied from that night’s show. Evident from his Instagram tags and shared stories, the evening was filled with great vibes, expressive sing-a-longs and a successfully packed venue. Styled by Korede Alabi and Nenna Egele, BNXN’s monochromatic style elevated his rockstar presence, imitating a performance you often see in the neighbouring 20,000-capacity O2 arena. BNXN’s journey as an artist has been interesting to witness. His time at the Indigo O2 demonstrates his ability to take control of a space. A show like this, with its intense audience participation, is a precursor to what is to come for such an artist.