Kid Creole And The Coconuts, Jazz Café, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

If scientists are right to decree this week the most depressing of the year, then the audience here found a panacea for seasonal affective disorder in this bizarre throwback to 1982.

Seeing this cruise ship troupe, it was hard to believe that Kid Creole's Latin soul was once so huge that ITV made a movie based on one of his albums. The Kid - August Darnell - had emerged from New York's underground dance scene. He wrote one disco classic, Machine's "There But For the Grace of God Go I", and produced the punk-funk pioneers James Chance and The Contortions.

His alter ego grew out of his time in Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, a Seventies cult outfit formed to inspire mixed-race people. One of last year's key artists, MIA, paid homage with her own version of "Sunshower". So, with interest in ballroom dance on the rise, taste may well be heading the Kid's way.

Darnell's face has grown leathery, but he's still a vibrant cross between bandleader Cab Calloway and some Chicano spiv. The suit and fedora were present, and the man inside was constantly on the move. Rather than head down the Latin dance route, his band began with muscular funk. Itchy guitar came out louder than the elastic rhythm section and rough and ready horns.

"It's Automatic" was an energising opener, with Darnell snapping: "I'm a sucker for equality." Few such numbers from his long, if usually obscure, career matched the hits' witty invention. Lasciviousness was always a key part of the Kid's persona, but "Casual Sex" and "I Love Girls" were lame without his self-deprecating humour.

Neither he nor his band, though, could go far wrong with the infectious disco mamba of "Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy", while a dense "Stool Pigeon" stood out as the night's funkiest number. Elsewhere, the versatile band dipped into salsoul, Cuban ska and smooth Eighties grooves.

His three backing singers, The Coconuts, were not really up to the job. Their original role was to puncture the Kid's egotism, but these newcomers lacked the character for the role and the vocal talents to express themselves in song.

Judging from his website, Darnell believes his comeback can match previous dizzy heights. To do so, he needs more engaging material. Meanwhile, the man described by his hypeman as "a legend in his own mind" remains a much-loved original to a hardy few.

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