The Jazz Café in Camden never ceases to surprise us. Eclecticism is the name of their game. Last month, we were listening to an homage to the Turkish psychedelia folk legend that is Barış Manço, which you can read all about here. On 29th February, we shall be witnessing a performance of one of our all-time ambient heroes Tom Middleton who will be presenting Global Communication featuring Ross Sampson and The Epic String Quartet, as they recreate live renditions of tracks from albums such as 76:14 (the only ambient album to feature in our personal all-time top 20). But last night, Valentine’s Day, the legendary Camden venue suitably entertained us with the Egyptian Lover, who banged out 1980s hip-hop choonage on his trusty Roland TR-808. What’s not to like?
Greg Broussard has been scratching, producing, DJing and freaking out under the Egyptian Lover moniker since the 1980s. This is the real deal. If you are a fan of early hip-hop you will most certainly have at the very least “Egypt, Egypt” somewhere among your collection. And if not, why not? We knew that tonight was going to be a night for nostalgia, or at least it was for us. The majority of the punters around us were not even born when these vinyls were originally pressed. Which did make us feel somewhat old…
The Egyptian Lover did not begin his set until well after 1 a.m., which was a tad later than we were expecting, but we were not complaining as the music from the warm-up DJ was very enjoyable. Broussard eventually took to the stage in the most lovably cheesy way possible, brandishing some roses, which he threw into the audience. He then grabbed a couple of his vinyl releases and taunted his public, milking them, as hands waved everywhere, hopeful of becoming the lucky recipients. Once the fortunate had successfully disembarrassed him of his freebies, he took to the decks and began spinning some very familiar sounds.
As is his custom, he began his set by DJing and scratching, mixing tracks like the 1982 classic “Message II (Survival)” by Melle Mel & Duke Bootee and the much-loved 1983 song “Tour de France” by Kraftwerk. On top of the various tunes, Broussard would often add some heavy breathing and panting of his own, which he would then sample and mix in. Every now and then he would also rap over some of the tracks.
It was not long before he started to introduce his 808, filling the Jazz Café with that fantastic analogue sound that we had all come to hear. At one point he picked up his trusty drum machine like a trophy and showed it to the crowd. He began to shout into the microphone the words ‘Eight O Mother-fuckin’ Eight”, as he held the equipment aloft as though it were the birth of Simba, so that everyone could see it through the smog that the over-enthusiastic smoke machine had created. The crowd responded, mantra-style.
From that point on, the 808 became more prevalent, and he started to perform much more of his own stuff, including “My House (On the Nile)” and of course the classic “Freak-A-Holic”. My only complaint was that we couldn’t really see very much. He was poorly lit, and the smoke machine had created a pea-souper that made photography nigh impossible. Unbelievably, we took almost 200 photographs last night, but those that accompany this article are more or less the only ones that were in any way salvageable.
But last night was of course all about the music, the dancing, the nostalgia. We didn’t have to see the Egyptian Lover clearly. His music spoke for him. And every now and then, just to remind us that he was actually there, he would encourage his devotees to chant another mantra. “Say hey, I like the old skool!” became the next one. And the crowd were not just liking it. They were loving it. Egyptian style.
We do love the Jazz Café. We cannot wait to go back to see how this venue becomes transformed courtesy of Global Communication in two weeks’ time. We’re pretty sure the audience will be a lot more chilled though. Maybe we’ll see you there.
More information about the Global Communication gig can be found on the Jazz Café website here. Oh, and did we say that Andy Gangadeen from Chase and Status will be there too? It looks as though another epic night awaits us.