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It was probably the most eccentric gig I’ve ever been to. We rocked up at The Prince Albert in Brighton to find a dictionary corner and a ‘Pin the mustache on the gentleman’.  The dictionary quiz was quite fun actually – a sign on a ballot box stated ‘Mr B. The Gentleman Rhymer is a keen advocate of the advancement of one’s vocabulary’. It said you had to write down imaginative definitions for made up words such as ‘crinkum’ and ‘piss prophet’ and the best would be read out after the show.

Mr B. himself was mingling beforehand in his baggy suit, completely in character. I should tell you a bit about him for those who don’t know. Donning a handlebar moustache and Ray-Ban glasses, The Gentleman Rhymer is on a one-man mission to introduce hip-hop to the Queen’s English. The genre he calls ‘chap-hop’ aims to bring some manners back into popular culture through posh raps and well-known hip-hop re-worked in his own style.

Back to the lively chatter of the intimate venue, and suddenly a female soprano was singing opera among the audience. She wandered amongst the baffled spectators as she chose her victims for an awkward opera-in-the-face scenario. Two songs later and she introduced herself as Adele and told us of ‘immersive opera’.

Peculiarity aside I enjoyed experiencing an opera singer that close up and her voice projection was something to behold. It’s hard enough standing on a stage, but actually walking amid strangers and seeing their responses took some guts! After some pitch-perfect renditions of famous classical songs she ended with an entertaining mash-up combining the tune of Verdi’s ‘La Donna e Mobil’ with the lyrics of Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’.

The second support act was Jennifer Left, and to begin with we assumed it was ‘her thing’ to hold an apple as she performed. We later realised it was a fruit-shaped maraca. The Brightonian singer-songwriter gave us a tempting mix of folky sounds and jazzy vocals.

The man of the hour stepped onto the stage to perform his ditties of high society. Mr B. kicked off with ‘I invented hip-hop’, the opening track of his latest record ‘The Tweed Album’. He picked up his banjolele (looks like a banjo, sounds like a ukulele) for his first ever chap-hop song, ‘A Piece of My Mind’. This upbeat track about confronting an unruly patron includes the humorous line, ‘Brandishing my brolly, it’s your folly you know’.  It amused me how he would exclaim things like ‘Hit it DJ’, ‘Break it down’ and ‘You know what I’m talking about’ in a posh manner.

I particularly like his parody of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’, in which he beatboxes and loops his way through the R&B classic singing ‘I don’t like the way you work it. No dignity.’  He got plenty of audience participation throughout, with tunes such as ‘All Hail The Chap’ and we had a good old sing song with our imaginary tankards of ale for his Bavarian folk-style track.  ‘Chap-Hop History’ was another favourite with his remix medley of Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’, Run DMC’s ‘Fight For Your Right’ and Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’.

He then took to the piano to play a slowed-down version of ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ which somehow morphed into  ‘I Like Big Butts’.  His final hoorah included renditions of ‘I Like To Move It’ and ‘Out of Space’, prompting even more sing-alongs. Mr B. finished by telling us the results of dictionary corner, and like a true gentleman he gave a copy of ‘The Tweed Album’ to the most outrageous linguist’. Such a nice chap.

– Published at Critical Wave