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Burlesque & Blues Revue

Thursday 15th September 2016

The Proud, Camden, London

Gorgeousness and excitement were to the fore as Proud Camden put on the first Burlesque and Blues Revue, presented by the British Blues Exhibition with the help of the Wrinkly Rockers Club on 15th September 2016.

Just how would four music acts and the seven ladies of burlesque combine? There was already a theoretical affinity between the separate artforms, rooted in the music having heavy innuendo in its roots (and ever since) and burlesque being an assertive celebration of femininity any of the gutsy early Blues ladies would have admired. A third artform - literature - was also represented in the shape of a copy of Richard Wall's entertaining new Blues-soaked novel, Fat Man Blues, which spent the night on the stage, close to the action.

However, what stood out on the night was the grace and timing with which the movements of the performers complemented songs old and new. Sinuous, often elegant, at times cheeky, as the ladies took away various layers of clothing (but never to completion), their movements on and off stage clearly inspired the musical acts to give of their best. Ironically, one of the most memorable moments came in a brief interlude of recorded music between sets, as Helene De Joie let rip a ferocious sequence of moves to a personal favourite, Led Zepellin's 'Whole Lotta Love'. Robert Plant would have been proud to see it.

Similarly, Andy Twyman's 'You Ain't Fat' has surely never had such a witty, visual accompaniment, courtesy of Cerise Mae. Peter Donegan's classy mainly originals set was crowned by a breathless, rousing rendition of his father's favourite 'Rock Island Line', a perfect fit for a night intentionally harking back to the earliest days of British Blues including, this time, their Skiffle roots.

Nor were the burlesque performers - including the spectacular feathers and costumes of Baby Boo, Blondie Valentine, Coco Nobel, Constance Peach and Scarletta Fire, the only ones to get a wiggle on. Bob from The Great West Groove, when not leading his highly John Lee Hooker-esque band of boogie experts, showed some unexpected hip action alongside the burlesque ladies when they were encouraging audience involvement.

The debonair duo Auld Man's Baccie, in a rare welcome venture into London, showed why they should be back as soon as possible, grooving away with verve and panache. Their take on AC/DC's 'Whole Lotta Rosie' was an inspired choice and a fine example of what a cultured row two acoustic Blues musicians can make.

Burlesque and Blues? Now there's a combination with a future.

Darren Weale

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