LIVE: Fantastic Negrito @ Cohoes Music Hall, 10/13/16

Fantastic Negrito
Fantastic Negrito

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

The cathartic music of Oakland’s Fantastic Negrito is deeply rooted in the blues, but by no means is it limited to merely one facet of the blues.

Recently at the Cohoes Music Hall, Fantastic Negrito (aka, Xavier Dphrepaulezz) and his four-piece band churned through 80 minutes that covered the wide spectrum of the blues from the Led Zeppelin-like buzz-saw blitz of the opening selection to the ballad “About a Bird,” which showcased his nimble, Prince-like falsetto.

He stretched from the Al Green-like Memphis soul stew sound of “Working Poor” (anchored by the fat back-beat of drummer Quantae Johnson) to the harrowing, thoroughly contemporary re-invention of Lead Belly’s classic “In the Pines.” And the musical journey continued from the steamrolling “Scary Woman” to the punk-ish charge through “Dope Fiend Drama” (his unflinching assessment of the current political situation) fueled by the wicked wah-wah guitar playing of Tomas Salcedo.

It all culminated in the tribal, climactic “Lost in a Crowd,” with the kinetic Dphrepaulezz wailing, “Lost in the wilderness of sound / Get through the day, don’t drown / Life it goes fast, youth is gone / Feeling so lost, come on, grieve, move on…”

Dphrepaulezz has endured more than his share of personal trials and tribulations – a near-death encounter with a masked gunman, a career-ending major-label record deal that exploded in his face and a car accident that crushed his hand and left him in a coma for three weeks – but he’s poured all of that pain and disappointment into his music, instilled it with undeniable hope and reclaimed the spotlight.

Bryan Thomas opened the show with a 40-minute solo set that fused the personal and the political, the local and the global, the historical and the contemporary.

Bookended by a tender, intimate rendition of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and a raw, radical re-working of Joni Mitchell’s “The Jungle Line,” his set centered around a pair of uncompromising originals – “Rise” and “Sam” – that faced the issue of racial divide head-on, proving once again that he’s Greater Nippertown’s best singer-songwriter. And he just keeps getting better…

This review is reprinted with the permission of The Times Union.

Scary Woman
Rant Rushmore
Hump Through the Winter
An Honest Man
Working Poor
In the Pines (Lead Belly)
Night Has Turned to Day
Dope Fiend Drama
About a Bird
Lost in a Crowd

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan)
The Jungle Line (Joni Mitchell)

Sara Foss’ review at Thinking It Through

Fantastic Negrito
Fantastic Negrito
Bryan Thomas
Bryan Thomas
Bryan Thomas
Bryan Thomas

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