It's a bad sign when the audience barely outnumbers the performers on stage--as was the case Sunday night when Oliver de Coque and his 10-piece ensemble appeared at the Music Machine. But a better measure of the Nigerian guitarist's performance was the fact that the small crowd packed itself on the dance floor for the marathon 2 1/2-hour set, and a steady stream of fans observed the traditional Nigerian custom of plastering money on De Coque's forehead.
De Coque's "ogene" style is rooted in the music of eastern Nigeria's Ibo tribe, and though his clear, trebly guitar tone recalled juju king King Sunny Ade (a Yoruba), the absence of talking drums in De Coque's band underscored the difference in styles. The burly, amiable De Coque worked in some rock-star maneuvers--his favorite move was bracing the butt end of his guitar against his stomach and aiming a machine-gun lick at the crowd.
But the busy arrangements of the relentlessly up-tempo material left much of the performance a one-note affair. There was added intensity (due to increased volume rather than any melodic or rhythmic shifts) when De Coque switched from singing to playing guitar. But the only respites from the fast pace came when the guitarists quit playing and the percussion squad took over to support one band member playing some truly spooky traditional Ibo melodies on a flute called the oja .