Sam Duckworth moseying through a Brixton pub in baseball cap and outsize plastic chain is a sight that could alarm his fans.
With a new Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly album due this year, could the artist known for his passionate political engagement be taking a career swerve in the direction of N-Dubz or Example?
Thankfully not, instead it is the costume for his annual New Years Eve bash, where he drops his emo-influenced pop in favour of an unlikely covers set. In the past, Duckworth has tackled Wham!, cult post-hardcore outfit At The Drive-In and Madonna. On paper, Beastie Boys, given their mix of party-starting charisma and campaigning for Tibetan freedom, make a good fit for a character last seen helping organise on Twitter the post-riot clean-ups.
There is just one problem, Duckworth raps like he is got a half-eaten mince pie in his throat. You can not fault his enthusiasm, nor that of the two mates that help him replicate the New York trio. Indeed, the short guy in a pork pie hat, uncannily similar to Beastie livewire Mike D, delivers his verses with some clarity and rightly gets to crowd surf later on. A competent DJ scratches away and a grim-faced, Rick Rubinesque guitarist provides an occasional cameo, though this set is really no more than souped-up karaoke.
At least the trio stick to memorable hits, from the lairy ‘Fight For The Right’ to 2011 comeback ‘Make Some Noise’, with judicious inclusion of the infernally punchy ‘Brass Monkey’. While this threesome tear into the originals’ rousing choruses, they fail to do justice to the hip hop veterans’ easy flow and slick wordplay. Better were tonight’s earlier performers: firstly, Gracie Petrie, the self-styled “Leicestershire lesbian”, strumming unadorned takes on Lady Gaga. “I’m not making this up - these are the words,” she explains as the crowd laugh helplessly at the inane lyrics of ‘Paparazzi’. Then The Attika State paid fitting tribute to the anthems of nerdy pop-rockers Weezer.
For Duckworth and mates, then, this is a roaring success. The Get Cape frontman also gets to pay tribute to a venue that supports upcoming talent all year round, though regular attendees know he has found more suitable material in the past (the Windmill’s promoter still raves about his Lady Madge) and we can all look forward to the return of Duckworth’s regular band in 2012, as long as he drops the rapping.