Pop: Wyclef Jean, Forum, Londonm

An ecleftic evening
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The Independent Culture

Consider a few of the motley bunch Wyclef Jean has worked with this year: Bono, "Brenda" Jagger, Brian Harvey and Tom Jones. If it were anyone else, you would think they were being opportunistic but when Wyclef performs you understand; the collaborations are just an extension of his come one, come all ethos. Tonight his associates include overweight bankers and middle-aged mothers, school girls and gangsters, wine sippers, spliff smokers and beer monsters.

All ages and races, genders and social groups are celebrated at a Wyclef show. They are in the audience and, during various parts of the show, onstage in their hundreds.

Whether they are on the stage, on the dancefloor or in the balcony the one-time Fugee from Haiti walks, dances and roves among them all. He is a musical prince and mood wizard, a knockabout clown and genius alchemist.

Take "It Doesn't Matter" his surrealist blast of human beat box, carnival horn samples and anti-greed lyric. "I've got a garden full of trees, and a pocket full of cheese," he screams and the crowd call back the title.

It's Captain Beefheart meets Stevie Wonder at the greatest musical party to grace a London stage since the last time Wyclef was here.

There are elements of cavalier naughtiness in a Wyclef show – dancing girls, a cunning segue from Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" into Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry", spliff smoking, his endless curfew baiting.

And there are parts where he just dances and lets the DJ mix sections of his recorded music with Queen, Grandmaster Flash and Michael Jackson tracks. He does press ups, and he scales the balcony. If there were chandeliers, he'd no doubt swing from them.

He's deeply serious too. A track from his new album Masquerade puts a spin on the war that few musicians have explored. It's a song pitched at a slow "sufferation" reggae tempo, groaning under the weight of racism, about "a problem at the airport because his security man 'looks like Bin Laden'."

No wonder his brilliant second album The Ecleftic has remained a constant favourite since its release more than a year ago. There are very few who have the truly global appeal and lust-for-life exuberance of the Jean Genie. His version of the old Caribbean fishing ballad "Guantanamera" goes from schoolroom sing along into deep dub and dark troubled hardcore rap. Then he glides into the beautiful opening words of Smokey Robinson's "My Girl" before bursting into the fiesta rhythms of "All Night Long".

He's easy and simple, complex and thoughtful, deeply spiritual and wildly raucous. When does Christmas begin? I think it just did.

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