In August of last year, The Houston Press reported on we called a spectacle of a live performance. Tobe Nwigwe, former college football star and Alief native, had just performed the first solo show of his then-nascent career — a sold out affair of some 1,000 fans at White Oak's indoor main stage. Sixteen months, two tours, multiple projects, a baby girl, a baby on the way, and countless career and life milestones later, Nwigwe triumphantly returned home to wrap his 27-city Ivory Tour (his second tour of 2019) at Revention Music Center.
In a venue some three times the size of the first, Tobe and his travelling ensemble of collaborators, plus some unexpected cameos, held court over 2,800 or so of their closest "cousins". The homecoming tour finale was, in some respects, a repeat of the same unparalleled energy and showmanship we've come to expect from a Tobe Nwigwe concert — now his third in Houston. The Revention show, however, scaled that concept beyond the intimacy of a small theater, presenting a well-polished and refined image of Tobe Nwigwe. Still in awe of the heights he continues to reach, Nwigwe is no longer fazed or seemingly affected by the magnitude of each moment.
His stage presence, while natural from day one, has grown beyond effortless. The former public speaker seems most comfortable performing. Perhaps a natural gift sharpened with practice, perhaps the outcome of his very online and on camera existence, the Nigerian-American kid from the SWAT performs both music and stage banter with an ease and swagger most folks struggle to achieve in daily conversation.
As in previous performances and during the course of both tours, Tobe's show at Revention featured an army of guests and performers, both big and small. While Nwigwe, like the band leader and CEO he is, remains firmly at the fore of each project, his career can be defined as much by the artists his success has illuminated as by his own creativity. Last night featured performances by Paul Wall, Alief's own Young Deji, singer Susan Carol, regular Tobe collaborators Luke Whitney and David Michael Wyatt, Tobe's producer LaNell Grant and wife Fat, as well as dozens of dancers and a marching band.
Key moments in the night included an unexpected but rather unsurprisingly early appearance by Paul Wall. The People's Champ joined Tobe onstage for a powerful performance of their recent viral sensation "Juice," a single that marked Nwigwe's first collaboration with a celebrity and rap star of equal caliber. The song was encored by a shortened rendition of Mike Jones' 2004 "Still Tippin" during which Tobe rapped along with Paul on the rapper's iconic first verse.
While the evening featured many of Nwigwe's recent singles, songs like "Hella Black" and "What They Say Now," the theater shook at the introduction of those tracks which marked Tobe's early career. None more so than the powerful and profoundly moving "What It's For." The 3:30 autobiographical affirmation, performed as a solo act with no hook or chorus, set the high water mark for energy and emotion — a mark matched only by the most unexpected and unusual (maybe not for the Nwigwes) moment of the night.
Fat and Tobe took the opportunity at home in front of their friends, fans and loved ones to find out, for the first time, the sex of their unborn second child. As Nell delivered the news that Tobe would soon welcome a second daughter to the world, he, Fat and the crowd of thousands erupted into cheers and tears of joy.
The moment, for those unfamiliar with how Tobe Nwigwe shares every moment of his life and career with a fan base he likes to call his cousins, might have felt unusual. For most of the thousands in attendance, the reveal was not only unsurprising, but among the many reasons they love and support the man the way they do; he makes them feel, quite sincerely, like family.