Brighton Fringe 2013
Australian-based “Balkan” five-piece band play a myriad of torch songs, western themes, and original cabaret numbers interspersed with anecdotes, set pieces and witty asides.
If you like your humour black and your music dark then you’d be a fool to miss this enigmatic band’s Brighton debut. Despite the woefully sparse audience on a wet Wednesday, the quintet put on a masterful show.
Bequiffed Mikelangelo, on guitar and lead vocals, gave a commanding performance looking like a beefy Mark Kermode, and the entire troupe was well-rounded out with the baby-faced killer, Little Ivan on double bass; the creepy Guido the Libido on accordion; Rafino, “The Catalonian Casanova” on violin; and the inscrutable clarinettist, The Great Muldavio.
They opened with a gypsy-esque, Dancing at the Devil’s Wedding, setting the tone for ludicrous lyrics languidly sung, such as “We are all just skeletons reclining on a beach of flesh.” Their brilliantly deadpan delivery left the audience initially in that delicious zone of being hesitant whether to laugh or not, and the band relished in awkward breaks and deliberatly long silences, again leaving the audience on tender hooks if the song was finished, or if it was just an opportunity for Mikelangelo to start one of his absurdist musings. And his wry witticisms were never far away, as he introduced An A Minor Day, “Here’s a little number about life’s little disappointments. We do hope you like it.”
Steadfastly egalitarian, each member of the band got to take centre stage singing at least one number each. At times the show became genuinely sinister, particularly when Guido the Libido sang Beware The Stranger, with a voice so gravely it put Tom Waits to shame. Then Rafino sang a tortured, melancholic Parisian-style torch song, Things Will Never Be the Same.
They featured a couple of Ennio Morricone inspired theme tunes including the soundtrack to the cowboy classic, Eastern/Western, Ten Long Years in the Saddle (Waiting for Death to Come) while acting out scenes from the “film”. Next, like some Eastern European Elvis, Mikelangelo flipped his pelvis inside and out for their Balk’an’Roll number, The Nightingale (But Moves Like a Bull).
The Black Sea Gentlemen’s distinctive “kabaret noir” sound would make them at home on a Tim Burton film soundtrack or reminiscent of an Addams Family musical recital.
Their superbly satanic lust song, A Formidable Marinade, allegedly “won the 1964 Eurovision Song Contest and was a minor hit in Bali and Indonesia”. They finished up with On Invisible Wings (Even Fools can Fly) and successfully got the whole audience up and dancing.
Very often with “comedy bands” either the music or lyrics fall flat, or the comedy feels contrived. Neither of which can be said for the Black Sea Gentlemen. Their musical ability is unquestionable, and their comedy is as sharp and as dark as a stiletto in the back, in an Albanian alley.
If you like your entertainment sleazy, cheesy and a little bit greasy, you must go see!