A sultry steamy night in West London provided the perfect backdrop as Oakland’s finest Fantastic Negrito brought a touch of California to W12.
The master showman romped through a short but sweet set, which encompassed a bewildering range of genres and styles.
There were shades of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, a soupçon of Al Green and a smidgeon of Prince as Negrito, real name Xavier Dphrepaulezz, swept seamlessly from rock to folk, blues, punk, funk and gospel.
To the delight of an equally eclectic audience – preppy university types, afro soul divas, hip hop kids and ageing black-clad Velvets fans (guilty!) – he fully delivered on the promise of the much acclaimed The Last Days of Oakland album.
Gripping the assembled throng by the scruff of the neck, Negrito and his talented four-piece backing band, never let go for a second.
Audience participation was not so much encouraged as rendered compulsory as the waist-coated Pied Piper of Black Roots called the tune.
As his keyboard player thrashed his Hammond organ to within an inch of its life, Negrito whirled like a dervish, striking extravagant shapes and leaping skyward Pete Townshend-style.
There were a few sound problems, most notably at the start of Appalachian folk standard InThe Pines – covered by Lead Belly and Nirvana among others – but by then everyone was having too much of a good time to care.
All too quickly it was over, Negrito disappearing back stage as his band whipped out their phones to grab videos of the cheering crowd.
The only disappointment was that Bush Hall was only two-thirds full, but then again it felt like we were all in on a closely-guarded secret.
A few more shows like this and Fantastic Negrito will not be secret for long.
- Read our Fantastic Negrito interview here.