Akon, Indigo2, London

3.00

Reviewed by Nick Hasted

Anyone who knows Akon for "Lonely", the irritating playground favourite, with its Bobby Vinton sample at Pinkie and Perky speed, would be taken aback by tonight's songs about gunshots, strippers and jail time. But Akon, more honestly than most rappers, doesn't care how you know him. As he once said, "the best way to conquer the industry is to conquer other territories", and he has shared more than 100 tracks with other artists, from Gwen Stefani to Snoop. From the high street to the back alley, someone will always be playing his tune. He owns his own diamond mine, and Michael Jackson has called, desperate for his Midas touch. But for tonight's show, the man who once supposedly stole cars earns his success with honest, gracious work.

DJ Benny-D, an American with a trim mohican, aviator goggles and, he proudly reveals when leaping from the decks, a kilt and box-fresh trainers, proves he knows which town he has landed in by playing London grime records, before Akon breezes on to "Shake Down". The New Jersey boy with Senegalese roots proudly claims to hail only from "Senegal, West Africa!" tonight, rightly assuming an African contingent in any London crowd. He has a light, reedy voice, matching his handsome, modest physical presence, his shirt glittering, perhaps from his private diamond supply. Though muscular, he looks too small to be his songs' tough jailbird. Like the similarly slight Tupac, investigation suggests exaggerated criminality, in Akon's case amounting to three months inside for nothing much. Lyrical references to street hardship and violence are, however, just one layer of a commercial persona also encompassing R&B lover's man and children's entertainer.

"Gunshot" sees his guitarist pole-axed, legs in the air like a cartoon casualty. Young Jeezy's "Soul Survivor" is dedicated to "all my convicts". If there are many ex-cons in the crowd tonight with more than Akon's just-visiting jailtime, rehabilitation has gone awfully well. When he asks who here is "ghetto" to blank stares, the pretence quietly falls apart. In a moment of mutual honesty he is reduced to asking who is "in any way influenced by the ghetto" to get a cheer. "Ghetto" is then dedicated to "the soldiers in Iraq fighting for our freedom", proving you should never learn politics from a pop star. But its lyrics hit deeper, at the emptiness of stolen luxury: "Even the life you live is borrowed."

The momentum often dips in a show clearly flung together by Akon's own whims. British-Ghanaian protégé Sway adds Stepney style to "Silver and Gold". But Akon peaks when dodgy musings in sexual politics resolve into Atlanta stripper tribute "I Wanna Love You", for which, as "relationships are 50/50, I might as well strip too". This ghetto romantic bumps and grinds down to the top of his boxers before discretion prevails. Then, during current hit "Right Now (Na Na Na)", he launches his toned, topless body backwards into the crowd with a sudden, careless running jump. This star who will do anything to reach you could teach Michael Jackson about body-contact issues, and how to deliver patchy music with unflagging grace.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
Arts and Entertainment
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs at Suncorp Stadium on February 24, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans had initially distanced himself from the possibility of taking the job

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
British author Matt Haig

books
Arts and Entertainment
Homeland star Damian Lewis is to play a British Secret Service agent in Susanna White's film adaptation of John le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor

Film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue