Having seen The Cuban Brothers perform at both Bestival and Common People Oxford, we immediately jumped at the opportunity to see them again at their Jazz Café show. However, this was a very different show to previous gigs and they completely surpassed our expectations…
The Cuban Brothers are known for their mixture of dancing, comedy, and groovy classics – hence why the likes of Elton John book the entertainment troupe for parties. This was the first time we had seen the band away from a summery open stage so we weren’t sure if it would be quite the same as a boozey festival atmosphere, how wrong we were. They performed with a full live band and brought out some amazing special guests, which came as a delightful surprise, but before we get into that I’d like to bring your attention to the support act.
We were blown away by the supporting artist Joel Culpepper last Thursday, whose mixture of Prince and Childish Gambino-esque style showed off both his singing abilities and showmanship as a performer. Culpepper, along with his full band (including some brass, we do love a horn section), mostly played tracks from his 2017 EP Tortoise which I would highly recommend giving a listen. ‘Woman’ and ‘Mr and Mrs Brown’ were definitely two of our highlights, with a groovy funk sound and pitch perfect vocals, the entire set showed his capabilities to play headline shows - this guy exuded confidence and had a stage presence that most artists can only dream of.
The crowd at The Jazz Cafe were already pumped up and ready for The Cuban Brothers after such a phenomenal opening act. Jumping on the decks, Archerio Mantovani played some funky bangers (such as Carl Carlton's 'Sexy Lady') with remixes designed for the dancefloor, before the full show began, which built up the crowd, ready to throw some weird shapes. The band have some great mixes from SOHO Radio, I highly recommend giving them a spin, they crack me up in between tracks too - give them a listen here.
The latin disco funk group entered the stage wearing their famous jazzy suits, which are always colourful and lairy - I want their tailor to design me a sexy little paisley number. Frontman Miguel Mantovani (Mike Keats) immediately injects some comedy into the evening through his playful rapport with the audience, always turning the performances into part stand-up routines, which is a huge element of the bands appeal.
Whilst The Cuban Brothers played a number of their own big tunes, such as ‘So Sweet’ and ‘El Presidente’, they also performed some new songs from their upcoming album (which gets released in a week or so). The band’s disco funk single ‘I Really Love Love’ is a fresh track which optimistically highlights the importance of love over hate, somewhat appropriate in the current climate - negativity and hateful rhetoric seem to be thrown around by the public and various media sources far too often.
There were also a variety of covers performed, by The Cuban Brothers, some excellent choices to get the crowd in the mood - 'Get Up Offa That Thing' by James Brown and 'Hollywood Swinging' by Kool & The Gang, with a number of other classics. They took things to the next level by bringing out legendary hip hop artist Afrika Baby Bam (from The Jungle Brothers) to perform a couple of their best songs, including 'Brain'. Followed by Hamish Stewart from funk group Average White Band (this guy has played for Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, George Benson...) to play 'I've Got Work To Do', 'Pick Up The Pieces', and (of course) 'Let's Go Round Again'. The Cuban Brothers have friends throughout the music industry but bringing out two legends to perform with was an unexpected treat.
Kengo San and Young Domenico, the youngest member of The Cuban Brothers, showed off their break-dancing skills, with the limited stage area encouraging Domenico to flip all around the balcony (certainly a great way to meet the crowd). All of the performers on stage were having a lot of fun which is the key to The Cuban Brothers success (20 years of it...). The band's shows are about enjoying yourself and being a bit silly, with a cracking set-list to get you dancing - they played out the show with a funkified version of the Rocky theme song. So I would recommend seeing The Cuban Brothers to anyone and, with a new album around the corner, now's the time to grab some tickets for a damn good night out.