Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Fantastic Negrito @ New Morning, Paris - July 2nd, 2019

This year is shaping up to be a great year for the Blues.

The 2018/2019 concert season has already delivered some of our lifetime's most intense Rn'B thrills: inspired and inspirational concerts by Ry Cooder, the Tedeschi/Trucks Band, John Mayall, Melvin Taylor, the Rockin' the Blues festival featuring Kris Barras, Walter Trout & Johnny Lang, Gov't Mule and an epic, triumphant set by Gary Clark, Jr.

Like him, Fantastic Negrito is a Blues modernist who fuses the traditional form with an hip-hop aesthetic and a quasi-punk edge. The militant fire in his lyrics also recalls some of music's most enduring artists like Marvin GayeStevie WonderBob Marley and Public Enemy. He is not a hotshot trying to get on the cover of Guitar World Magazine: he is an ambassador of Soul, and last night his mission was to educate the Parisian crowd as to what it means to be a Black man in America.

Yes, the Blues are a political statement. Free your ass and your mind will follow. Dance 'til consciousness. This music breaks chains.

The city really didn't need for Fantastic Negrito to turn up the heat last night, but he did anyway: the New Morning was a sweaty pit of funk and groove, the crowd spiralling into a trance-like state: the state of awakening and enlightenment.

The set was mostly comprised of modern classics from his excellent latest record Please Don't Be Dead. Songs like the supremely funky Bullshit Anhtem, the crushingly heavy Lost In A Crowd, or the poignant Dark Windows, a tribute to Chris Cornell... All played with fervour and intensity, toeing the line between sensual and spiritual. Classic Soul Music through the prism of Jon Spencer and the White StripesSon House by the way of a low-fi Led Zeppelin.

Who is Fantastic Negrito? Obviously, it's a persona. But it's not an act. Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz is all of the things he portrays on stage: a hustler, a preacher, sex cult leader, hobo, slave, master, lover,  sinner, guitar player, scam artist, poet, circus ringleader, a pirate and a soul singer... Channeling George ClintonPrinceJames Brown and Chuck D, he's here to educate you and make you dance.

But this ain't soapbox politics: it's church. Even behind the dirtiest lyrics, there is a message and a call for transcendance.. And even behind the most socially conscious songs there is a call for trance and dance. That's who Fantastic Negrito is, that is where he lies: at the juncture of all of these contradictions. He is an American, in 2019.

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