With eleven players on stage and a crowd that came fully prepared to dance their hearts out, Antibalas’ appearance at Lincoln Hall was an inherently overwhelming experience. Warmed up by the Balkan-inflected brass strains of Chicago’s own Black Bear Combo, the room was bristling with energy by the time the Brooklyn-based afrobeat purveyors launched into a jubilant rendition of Fela Kuti’s “Open and Close.” His face streaked with white paint, Nigerian-raised lead singer Abraham Amayo led the expansive ensemble through a selection of original tunes that matched the jazz and funk-influenced fervor of Kuti’s own Africa 70.
Supporting their latest, self-titled release on Daptone Records, the group eased into the triumphant horn blasts of “The Ratcatcher,” giving way to a blistering trumpet solo by Jordan McLean. The rhythmic back-and-forth of lead single “Dirty Money” served as the evening’s unequivocal highlight, buoyed by Amayo’s politically charged lyricism and the persistent chords of guitarist and composer Luke O’Malley. Even spacey, jazz-leaning numbers like the organ-heavy “Sanctuary” found traction with the crowd, who transitioned from a hip-shaking pace to a gentle sway. Injecting a little social commentary into the proceedings, a member of the group brandished a Chicago Teachers Union t-shirt before the ensemble ended the night with a cover of Bob Marley’s “Rat Race” that put a funky spin on the original’s reggae trappings. Not leading an afrobeat resurgence so much as insuring its continued proliferation, Antibalas authentically showcased the genre while simultaneously providing plenty of opportunities for the audience to move their feet.