Eek a mouse @ The Jazz Cafe, London on Wednesday 18th Oct 2006
The last time I went to see Eek-A-Mouse live he didn’t show up.
Recent government changes to work visas prevented him from entering the country to support Johnny Clarke at Lock 17 back in November of 2005. Instead last minute replacement Michael Prophet pulled out one of those no-nonsense all-his-best-songs back-to-back ‘remember me when you leave this venue’ performances that only the more criminally underrated roots singers tend to give. So, no harm, no foul, but catching the Mouse in Camden under the circumstances made for a highly anticipated event.
There was a good selection of music from Indigo Sound. What A Great Day by Lacksley Castell is a tune that doesn’t get heard out often enough. The cueing up of the records was a little messy (I prefer the Jah Observer method of stop the tune and hit delay myself) but you certainly couldn’t fault their taste.
Watching the remaining great performers of the 70s live can be a bit of a lottery these days, what with the high costs of getting a full band with brass, the complaints from the old guard about modern drummers being unable to play classic rockers rhythms and so on. So a man like Eek-A-Mouse, in his pomp in the 80s, is a less risky affair, since most backing bands can easily handle the heavier simpler rhythms and concentrate on the finer touches.
We were treated to a fine array of Ripton’s usual vocal tics, from his trademark “dancehall scat” to some arresting high pitched whines. Where so many of the ‘sing-jays’ who followed him tend to be very similar in style, set apart only by the tone and timbre of their voice, it is fitting that the originators’ delivery remains unique, his vocals closer in melody to traditional British folk singers than any pure Jamaican influence, demonstrating the truly international route the music was taking after the heavily US influenced 60s and 70s.
A genuine giant of a man, Mr Hilton towered over proceedings in every sense, calm and detached, never trying too hard to whip crowd into frenzy. Even the inevitable call and response, so often an exercise in ego, was un-showy and unforced.
It was a strong set, including Noah’s Ark, Wa Do Dem, Ganja Smuggling, and a superb Wine Up You Hip, after which we enjoyed an unusually long encore – even for a venue like Jazz Café where a return to the stage is pretty much guaranteed. The Mouse tore up the house, and for those of us disappointed last November it was well worth the wait.
Review by Angus Taylor