Asake pays tribute to Brixton Academy crush victims at first UK gig since tragedy

Asake has played his first UK concert since the fatal crush at his gig in Brixton last year, and started the show off by paying tribute to the two fans who were killed.

The tragic event took place at his show at London’s O2 Academy Brixton last December and saw two fans – Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson – lose their life after there was a crowd surge at the venue.

An investigation by the Metropolitan Police is still under way and, following the incident, the South London live music venue had its licence under review by Lambeth Council and has remained closed since.

A 21-year-old woman also remains in critical condition in hospital after being caught in the crush, and police continue to appeal for information.

Now, the Nigerian singer-songwriter and Afrobeats star has returned to the stage for his first live UK show since the event, and paid his respects to the victims.

Asake (Credit: Press)

The returning gig took place in the city’s O2 Arena last night (August 20) – a venue which has four times the capacity compared to Brixton. Asake, whose real name is Ahmed Ololade, arrived on stage approximately an hour and 20 minutes later than planned and kicked off the show with a three-minute tribute poem to Ikumelo and Hutchinson.

Backing performers dressed in white walked into view, before he appeared on stage, with flowers as a spoken word poem was recited in the background.

“Up at 02:30 thinking Gaby Hutchinson could be me,” the poem read (via The Independent). “Rest well and be free, rest in peace Rebecca, our sister.”

“I know some feel loss and some regret,” the poet said. “We need to hold this moment. I need to hold this moment. They need to hold this moment.”

According to the outlet, as the poem was read, visuals were also shown, containing footage from news reports at the time of the crush, as well as social media posts from the victims. Find it below.

At the time of the deaths, Asake shared a statement expressing his condolences on Twitter (X).

“I am devastated by the news that Rebecca Ikumelo who was in a critical condition since Thursday has sadly passed away,” he wrote. “My sincerest condolences to her loved ones at this time. Let us please keep her family in our prayers. I have spoken to them and will continue to do so.”

At the show last night, it was also reported that police officers were stationed outside the venue, handing out flyers and encouraging witnesses from the Brixton show to come forward.

Speaking to BBC News, a fan who had attended both Asake shows recalled how he felt safer at last night’s event due to the increased security. “The organisation with that gig, it wasn’t good at all,” he says. “But I see the security here is doing it properly.”

Back in June, families of the Brixton Academy crush victims had spoken out six months after the tragedy, saying that “all we want is justice”.

Brixton Academy
Police tape cordons off the O2 Academy Brixton after a crowd crush at Asake’s gig on December 15, 2022. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Earlier this year, the Met Police claimed to have “lost confidence” in the safety of Brixton Academy and made a push for the location to close its doors for good.

An online petition was later launched to counteract the closure and various artists and industry professionals also spoke out against the potential shutting down of the venue.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) then launched a campaign alongside Save Our Scene and Brixton BID to keep the venue open. The Prodigy were among high profile acts to share their support for save Brixton Academy campaign, urging the public to do the same.

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