Kid Creole and the Coconuts

London Times Review - Kid Creole & the Coconuts at the Barbican, London EC2

Kid Creole & the Coconuts at the Barbican, London EC2. By Clive Davis Four out of Five stars. Dumbing down? A certain number of eyebrows were raised when the Eighties pop star August Darnell, alias Kid Creole, was booked for the opening night of the La Linea festival of Latin music this year. After all, it is a long time since the Bronx singer’s zoot suits ruled the Top 40. Would it not have been better to let his fans cling to their memories of torrid nights on the dancefloor? Those of us who harboured such ungracious thoughts were soon put in our place by this hugely enjoyable and impeccably choreographed display of self-styled “mulatto music”. Darnell, who is now based in Sweden, turns 60 this year, yet his rapport with the latest lubricious crop of Coconuts is as captivating as ever. Sexual longing is in the air, yet there is still a winningly old-fashioned, look-but-don’t-touch quality to his battle of wits with the indefatigable trio of Aimee Bramall, Eva Tudor-Jones and Louise Peaple. Their vocals may not have been as impressive as their undulating movements — all performed with the knowingly blank expressions of go-go dancers — but the band and its three-man horn section made a gloriously full-blooded noise on such anthems such as Stool Pigeon and Endicott. As the evening progressed, Darnell and his crew gave us a history lesson in popular music, mixing Cab Calloway showmanship with Tito Puente percussion, James Brown footwork and Stax-era horn riffs. Apart from the moment when he invited a mass invasion of riotous female fans at the end, everything was superbly structured. Not a gesture was wasted as he paraded back and forth, exchanging hand slaps with all and sundry or casting longing glances at his singers. His musicians added some exuberant grace notes too. His long-time percussionist, the mischievous Bongo Eddie, turned into a convincing R&B vocalist on a juggernaut arrangement of Sweet Home Chicago. The trombonist Barnaby Dickinson plunged into a treatment of My Boy Lollipop that evoked the majestic playing of the Jamaican ska master Rico Rodriguez. Before the close, Darnell changed from Prince-like purple into an elegant white suit with matching fedora. The man still has style. A quarter of a century ago his act was sometimes dismissed as just an exercise in kitsch. Watching him again all these years later, his love of the traditions he absorbed in his youth is unmistakable. Full details of La Linea at The performance took place on the evening of April 22, 2010.
  • Posted on   05/04/10 at 12:00:00 AM   by Ryan  | 
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