mikelangelo and the black sea gentlemen: macabre good fun

lucy hawthorne

Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen

Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen

Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen

Mikelangelo pauses to run a comb through his slicked-back hair “ This song is a rumination on gloom” he announces to the teary eyed audience. That’s right folks; don’t wear your mascara to this one. Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen is an hysterically funny gypsy cabaret group playing at the Crystal Palace this week.

Mikelangelo is the handsome charismatic ringleader with a voice so absurdly deep that it competes with the double bass. Rufino the Catalan Casanova is a shifty looking violinist with the ability to jump onto tables without missing a note. On the clarinet is The Great Muldavio, a taxidermist on the run from an avenging duchess. Guido Libido, on the piano accordion, looks suspiciously like Uncle Fester (unlike the other Gentlemen, he refrains from singing because his tongue has been cut out in a battle over a woman and replaced with the tongue of a bull). Little Ivan, the bass player, may have been behind the killing of Mikelangelo’s entire family. These characters are completed with immaculate suits, intriguingly sexy European accents and morbid tales of their past.

This is black humour at its best. The truly macabre stories are told through monologues, dramatic re-enactments and satirical songs for which the Eastern European style arrangements are perfect especially for songs like It’s one of those A-Minor Days.

My favourite has to be A Formidable Marinade, a klezmer-themed tune. Besides the song itself which demonstrates the group’s expert musical and song writing abilities the melodramatics that accompany the performance are pretty impressive: Mikelangelo slides through the audience and between the tables like an animal possessed, while singing:

“Sodomy is not just for animals
Human flesh is not just for cannibals
I’ll feast on your body if you feast on mine
Blood is thicker and redder than wine
Lay ourselves out upon the table
Ravish each other ‘til we’re no longer able
When juices mix in the heat of the fray
It will make a formidable… marinade.”

At this point Rufino leaps onto a table and, ripping into his violin, plays a spine-chilling solo, his fingers climbing up the fingerboard to the bridge, higher and higher. The tortuously high notes truly make the described lust real.

The smoke and lights filling the circus tent- style venue provide the perfect stage for a group that enjoys interacting with the audience, jumping onto tables and visiting the bar mid-show (which reminds me: for the ultimate Gentlemen experience, make sure you have a glass of vino in your hand).

Their encore which they describe as a seven hour ordeal squeezed into three minutes of blood, sweat and tears, was rejected by Eurovision, and I probably don’t have to tell you that the producers haven’t any taste. I was trying not to mention the word taste but these are classy gentlemen. However dubious their subject matter, they pull it off, and they pull it off well. Although the band sound great on CD their utterly seductive show has to be seen to believed.

31 March 2007