PRAIZ. Bill Bellamy and host, Yvonne Ekwere.jpg and Johnny Gill, serenading guests
Ayodeji Rotinwa reviews Butterscotch Evenings, an event that was billed to be a carefully choreographed evening of great cuisine, timeless music, rib cracking humour and a splash of cutting-edge haute couture
The evening started ominously. The appointed time was 7pm. However, the event did not start until the hour of ten was reaching its concluding minutes. The ushers seemed almost affronted that a number of guests arrived so “early”. Bearing in mind that promotion for this event had read as a “carefully choreographed evening”, it was off to a false start.
Start, nonetheless it did, with a round of instrumental theatrics by the live band on hand which was followed by the evening’s opening act, Praiz a fast-rising R’n’B maestro-in-the-making. His performance was quite the redeeming salvo. It was almost worth the three-hour wait. Starting with a cover of Rihanna’s ‘’Stay’’ and with an impressive musical arrangement accompanying him, he highlighted to the full, his singing chops, proving he will be a force to be reckoned with in the Nigerian music industry in time to come. He then went on to his three of his own original songs, one, a heart-melting ballad that he rendered masterfully. The event may have had a false start but it was quickly gathering pace...
The second act was then to take the stage. No performance this time; it was Chef Aldo Zilli, a celebrity chef that specialises in Italian cuisine and the provisioner of the night’s three-course meal, which had been touted to be a redolent, lip-smacking cuisine experience. Zilli reiterated this, rather boastfully, flirting with the border of narcissism, in his introduction. This reporter’s interest was piqued and expectations rose. After such a rabble-rousing speech, surely the meal was going to literally blow the roof off the mouths of guests. No such luck, at least not at the first try – the appetizer. It was an unidentified, sweet-smelling soup with overcooked vegetables that fell flat on the palate. Perhaps it was the Italy-sourced spices and ingredients to which this reporter’s taste buds were hitherto unfamiliar.
The show went on. Next on the stage was another performer for the night, Immodesty Blaze, a burlesque performer. The event had so far been rumbling on indifferently, like a sick, sputtering car but had been moving regardless. This was when the wheels came off. Dance is to some extent, art and art is subjective but to the discerning eye, Immodesty Blaze’s burlesque performance did not come across as anything more than a rehearsed striptease that stretched the limits of good taste. Mild shock registered on the faces of (mostly female) guests during her performance. Given, there could have been some art that could have been ascribed to the sultry shaking of her thighs and the tracing of her décolletage with her fingers but such would be lost on the Nigerian guests, perhaps because of our conservative psyche. It was indeed a wildly inappropriate performance. To add salt to injury, as it were, a mini fashion show with dancing models in lingerie immediately followed Miss Blaze’s performance. She later joined them (the models) for a final bow. If ever there were a ranking for top moments of inelegance and utter lack of social grace, the two performances would be right on top of the list. The feeling of awkwardness was so palpable around the hall; one could cut it with a knife into several chunky pieces. Meanwhile, in between these garish performances, Chef Zilli’s waiters assaulted the hall in their numbers serving first dish of the evening. They were quite a distraction, having many a male guest craning their necks to see in full, Miss Blaze’s shimmies and jitterbugs. The men in the room certainly had nothing but lustrous thoughts of her performance...
Then the comedic act for the evening, Bill Bellamy was up next. His was a fair performance that had guests reeling with laughter. His propensity for salty humour regardless, his jokes were a hit. He would have scored top review points by this reporter if only he didn’t go down the condescending, arrogant route that is now typical of Americans when relating with people from other countries seemingly lesser than them. Bellamy expressed surprise that Nigerians used Android phones. Perhaps he thought our side of the world was still in the Stone Age and had yet to be greeted by the convalescent embrace of civilisation. While he continued talking through his hat, Zilli’s second dish, Ravioli, was served. The presentation left a lot to be desired so this reporter did not bother to have a taste.
Then there was Waje, another redeeming act. Hers was a magnificent vocal performance, perhaps seeming so because the performances before her bar Praiz’s, had been underwhelming. Putting a spin on her track she featured on, “One Naira”she made a cast iron case to be bestowed the title of Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, eat your heart out- and paved the way for the night’s closing act, the one whom most had come to see, member of 80’s chart-topping band, New Edition and now solo R’n’B singer, Johnny Gill.
He wasted no time at all, getting straight into the thick of things, eager to take the tempo up several notches. By this time, Zilli’s dessert had reached tables. It was a delightfully savoury serving of chocolate gateau and ice cream that hit all the right notes with one’s orifice; a culinary masterpiece that perhaps put guests in the right mood for Gill.
He started out with several of his timeless songs like “Rub You The Right Way”, then moving on to chart-toppers like “My, My, My”. His performance was turbo-charged and energetic; he ran the length and breadth of the stage, not missing a beat though breaking into quite a sweat to which he seemed oblivious. He had guests upstanding and revved, invited some up to the stage to sing along with him and shared a number of white and red roses to the ladies amongst them. He was the perfect antidote to the lacklustre performances before his and a climax to the evening as a whole. It was his performance (alongside Waje’s and Praiz’s) that best depicted what Butterscotch Evenings has set out to achieve: ‘a new dimension and standard in entertainment that will set a high benchmark for the industry.’ As to whether the event achieved this on the evening, whether it was indeed butterscotch, sweet and pleasant? Yes. Only just.