Karen P’s Broad Casting nights at Cargo deserve all the plaudits they have received so far, but even by her eclectic musical standards this was something of a coup. It’s not often a Salsoul artist comes to town – and Joe Bataan hadn’t been to London for 29 years, let alone performed.
Yet more of that later, for the undercard was well worth spending time over. Out in the balmy warmth of the courtyard could be found Jamie Noon, multitracking his own voice and taking several people under his spell in the process.
Indoors the first act up was GoldieLocks, Croydon’s solution to grime and a resident of Locked On. Her performance wove in threads of Lady Sovereign, M.I.A. and Kate Nash to a vaguely coherent whole, delivered with a healthy dash of attitude and melody. Part of her – no doubt the 25% Swede – held back from outright mockney’, but the half-sung, half-spoken vocals were strong if lacking the originality of her peers.
Throughout the night, recorded for posterity by the Red Bull Music Radio Academy, healthy risks were taken – none more so than with Bataan. One of the first men to try rapping on record, his sense of spontaneity extended to introducing himself to the majority of his backing band on the afternoon of a gig. Twelve people crammed on to the small stage, almost as if they were trying to get a closer look at the vocalist, while his regular drummer, flown over with him from New York, sat in front of the allocated rhythm section and shooed the brass section toward the corners of the stage if they threatened to even breathe out of place – which quite naturally they did now and then, having only rehearsed for a couple of hours.
Bataan himself was pumped up and full of vigour, jumping around on 67-year old legs. His entrance, and general presence, owed more than a little to James Brown, but once he was on the band cracked on with things, barely letting up as they powered through an opening instrumental, the Latin soul of Gypsy Woman and the hook-laden Rap-O Clap-O, whose bass line stayed in the head for hours afterwards. Behind the band were projected images of the gig in black and white, which proved surprisingly effective – the feeling being that we were all present at a gig in the mid-1960s.
You’ll notice little mention of James Pants – or James Trousers, as he suggested he be known over here. Despite being billed alongside Bataan he enjoyed the role of brief compere and cowbell basher, fully in character in sunglasses and woolly hat but reduced to a role of chief cheerleader.
This was something of a shame, as the musical duel could have been even more fascinating, the more relaxed gait of the younger’s beats against the elder’s hi-energy Latin soul. Still, when there was music making of this calibre to lap up, however scrappy it was in places, it seemed churlish to complain.