Mr B The Gentlemen Rhymer brought his festive fun and frolics to The Cambridge Junction
The Brighton-based rapper, the leading exponent of Chap-Hop, stopped off at the J2 in Cambridge on December 1 on his Christmas tour to treat the expectant crowd to his unique blend of hip-hop and British Music Hall.
Ahead of the appearance of the mustachioed maestro who hails from Surrey, Greg Butler of The Shellac Collective played old original 78s, mainly with a Christmas theme, on turntables. Butler also presents a fortnightly radio show called ‘Kipper the Cat’ on Cambridge 105, again solely using 78s which, he informed us, stopped being made in 1960.
Following the warmly received first set, poet and puppeteer Frog Morris performed a selection of his eccentric material, which included donning a horse mask and reciting a poem about a horse eating flowers and holding torches in front of his eyes during the chorus of Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes as it played on a turntable. Reaction to him was muted from some quarters, though I personally loved it.
Another ‘rockier’ set came from Greg Butler, which had people up on stage dancing, before Mr B (real name Jim Burke) took to the stage around 9.30pm.
Accompanied by his trusty banjolele and an ipad from which he selected his backing tracks, the musician who hit the headlines a couple of years ago when the then Education Secretary Michael Gove revealed he was a fan began with Adultery At Christmas, a track off last year’s Mr B’s Christmas Album. It wouldn’t be the last seasonal number of the evening.
Mr B explained that he refuses to play Christmas songs before December and that he was only playing them tonight because it was the first on the month. He assured those of us not wanting to hear a set lent heavily towards what Americans call ‘holiday songs’ that he would be playing other tracks too.
All Hail the Chap, the next song, was evidence of that and was a great crowd sing-a-along. Mr B then pulled Chap-Hop History out of the bag, the first of his two retrospective medleys which highlight the artist’s affection for – and his unique take on – hip-hop/dance classics from the late 1980s/early 1990s.
I Saw Your Father Beat A Man To Death In Tesco’s was the second tune of the night from the aforementioned Christmas album and was absolutely hilarious – indeed Mr B’s combination of music and stand-up comedy, delivered in a classic English style reminiscent of George Formby, was a joy from start to finish.
The new album released in November, There’s a Rumpus Going On, was also well represented; Hitler GIFs and We Need to Talk About Kanye particularly stood out. Audience members shouted out requests, one of which, Timothy, was and is a brilliantly observed send up of radio DJ Tim Westwood.
Alongside the excellent originals were some interesting covers, among them Kraftwerk’s The Model, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas and a fitting tribute to David Bowie: Starman. Possibly the most enthusiastically received song was Songs for Acid Edward, another of the nostalgia-laden medleys I talked about earlier that can’t help but bring a smile to the face – especially as it includes a Chap-Hop version of Reel 2 Real’s I Like to Move It.
There is nothing quite like Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer out there today and for a solid hour’s worth of laughter-filled musical entertainment, concert goers can’t go far wrong.