Arts & Entertainment

Kongos return after Lolla to steal more Chicago hearts

All photos courtesy of Alexandra Jonker

“Chicago… you win” is the caption Kongos’ singer/drummer, Jesse Kongos, gave his Instagram photo, showing off the sold-out crowd at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) this past Saturday. And what exactly did we win? Well, the frenzied crowd of Chicagoans turned out to hold the honor of being the “absolute highlight” of Kongos’ tour thus far.

Not that this was unexpected — especially after the giant crowd that the band had at Lollapalooza. When The Phoenix spoke with Kongos earlier in the week, the band members said that they were “a little worried” about their Lollapalooza set. The band thought people wouldn’t show up because they “started building a following in Chicago before [the band] even knew it.” Now that the full scope of their Chi-town support has been revealed they say, “Chicago is a special market for us because they have been such early supporters.”

Flash forward to this Saturday, an hour before the doors opened. At only 8 p.m., the waiting line was stretched a block from the entrance. I heard excitement expressed in the conversations that surrounded me — for many it had been their first time experiencing the unique sounds of the South African band live.

California-based band Young Rising Sons took the stage at 9 p.m.  to open the show and pleased the crowd with an upbeat, entertaining set.  The band mixed material from its self-titled EP with a few covers of popular favorites such as “I Melt With You.”  Without playing an overly long set, the band successfully riled the crowd and created a palpable energy, closing up the set with “High,” its fast-climbing, sudden hit that most of the crowd was able to cheerfully sing along to.

Finally, the lights dimmed, voices hushed and soon a chanting of “Kongos” could be heard rising from the back of the crowd. The brothers appeared through a thick fog, mere feet from the crowd. Immediately the band broke into the jazzy, upbeat track of “Hey I Don’t Know,” getting the crowd to dance.


The band then played almost every song from its debut album Lunatic, interspersed with stage talk describing the meaning of the songs or the band members’ gratitude to the crowd and its reactions. Kongos also brought out a personal friend and member of the crew, a rapper who goes by the name Moe’z Art. With his help, the band played The Beatles’ classic “Come Together” with a modern R&B funk twist. They also covered “Way Down In The Hole.”

Then, to the supreme pleasure of all, they debuted a brand new track, heavily laced with percussion, titled “I Don’t Mind.”

After each song ended, the crowd erupted with cheers, whistles, and applause, lasting a good 30 seconds longer than the typical concert. I credit this excitement to Kongos’ ability to put on one of the highest-energy and most entertaining live shows I had ever seen. The band members would look on with smiles and continuously thank the crowd for its reaction. They seemed flabbergasted but, obviously, extremely pleased.

The set ended with popular radio hit, “Come With Me Now,” as the crowd screamed along with the commanding chorus, “walk, come with me now.”

Even after Kongos left the stage, the demand for an encore swept the crowd into a state of continuing energy, desiring more from the brothers. They came back out and played “Tokoloshe Man,” a song that was originally performed by their father, John Kongos, in the early ‘70s. The night ended with a cover of The Beatles hit, “Get Back.”


The band members mentioned on their Twitter account that they were running on zero sleep, but I would have never guessed. Throughout the performance their voices never faltered or weakened, and they never slowed their rhythm.

Guitarist Dylan Kongos contributed to the non-stop energy, hopping around the stage barefoot playing his instrument. I also noticed that they were constantly engaging the crowd, either with instructions for hand clapping, commands to dance or even jumping into the crowd himself. Even when they entered into longer instrumental solos, the crowd remained attentive, a feat not all bands can usually accomplish.

The Kongos brothers left the stage telling the audience members that they would see them soon, and Chicago music fans can only hope this will come true.

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