Review: Fantastic Negrito at Camden Jazz Cafe on 27 July 2022

Yeah another gig, this particular artist I know nothing about.  I bought tickets (£25 each massive bargain as it turns out!) based on an email flyer I got.  I took one look at him and thought if he looks that great his music is surely a match.  My hunch served me well as Mr. Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz (made up surname apparently) aka Fantastic Negrito was the dogs.

Before the gig I happened upon him in the street and we chatted for a while and had the obligatory pictures and he even signed my LP at the end of the gig.  A very lovely charming man and instantly recognisable. 

So he is in the UK promoting his latest album ‘White Jesus Black Problems’ based on what he discovered researching his family history.  Turns out he has some white Scottish blood in him, he wasn’t who I thought I was – his seventh-generation great-grandparents were a black slave and a Scottish servant woman, who came together in Virginia in 1759 – so 27% European.

Fantastic Negrito is not your run of the mill musician.  Firstly, he looks like a cross between Mungo Jerry’s Ray Dorset mixed with a tinge of Sly Stone/Prince/Hendrix with a 70’s wardrobe to match 😊.  Image is all important after all and he certainly stands out from the crowd – see hair and sideburns!  Secondly his music crosses many different styles blues, soul, folk, R&B, country, and rock riffs.

Tonight in a packed Camden Jazz Café he swings his hips, shakes his ass, and struts his funky stuff on pretty much every song.  Supported by a band of seasoned pro musicians he can’t fail to whip the audience into a frenzy throughout his delightfully charismatic and energetic set.  It’s a small stage and he uses every inch with cool moves and hand gestures.    

The set featured the new album heavily as you’d expect and was interspersed with songs from all of his albums.  Everything was totally new to me and I was awestruck with his stage presence, humour and crowd manipulation – they were putty in his hands.

Between songs, Negrito informed us of his history which informed his new LP.   He has plenty of his own tunes but still added a couple of covers – “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the traditional “In The Pines” all done to his unique template. Once he stopped mid song “I’ve got great professionals in the band who have spent a great deal of time learning to be this good, so if you want to talk then we will walk” – that stopped them!

Fantastic Negrito wore white shoes, purple flares (hello 1973), and a blueish checked shirt with an interesting add-on funky collar.  As far as I can tell he is pretty unique in both sound and vision.

Setlist (click on links to watch videos on YouTube)

  1. Transgender Biscuits – (Please Don’t Be Dead, 2018)
  2. Oh Betty – (White Jesus Black Problems, 2022)
  3. Chocolate Samurai – (Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?, 2020)
  4. Ain’t No Sunshine – (Bill Withers’s cover)
  5. An Honest Man – (Fantastic Negrito, 2014)
  6. Man With No Name – (White Jesus Black Problems, 2022)
  7. About A Bird – (The Last Days of Oakland, 2016)
  8. Nibbadip – (White Jesus Black Problems, 2022)
  9. Trudoo – (White Jesus Black Problems, 2022)
  10. They Go Low – (White Jesus Black Problems, 2022)
  11. Venomous Dogma – (White Jesus Black Problems, 2022)
  12. Bullshit Anthem – (Please Don’t Be Dead, 2018)
  13. A Boy Named Andrew – (Please Don’t Be Dead, 2018)
  14. Afrobeat – (The Last Days of Oakland, 2016)
  15. Highest Bidder – (White Jesus Black Problems, 2022)
  16. In the Pines – (The Last Days of Oakland, 2016)
  17. Virginia Soil – (White Jesus Black Problems, 2022)
  18. Plastic Hamburgers – (Please Don’t Be Dead, 2018)
  19. The Duffler – (Please Don’t Be Dead, 2018)
  20. Lost in a Crowd – (The Last Days of Oakland, 2016)

‘Virginia Soil’ is a laid back track with a southern Baptist churchy gospel chant “I know that one day I’m sure that freedom will come” with added slide guitar for effect.  The songs go through multiple stylistic detours with ease, whilst Negrito’s voice varies wildly and most of the lyrics are far from fathomable but it’s live and in your face and expressive.  He’s a ball of energy that just keeps exploding .

His performance was pure unadulterated fun.  A born showman.  By the end I was a convert and a fan.  I bought his LP and he kindly signed it asking “did I live up to the hype?”, the response was “You most certainly did Man, you totally kicked ass!”.  I will be back for more.

Marko [1 August 2022]

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