Welcome to one of the most insane and wildly entertaining shows you’ve ever seen. Papa Shango are in town, and the sunny spires and hushed academia of Cambridge may never be the same again. Squeezing their massed ranks into the Six Six Bar, this travelling troupe of Grand Guignol rockers are a multi-sensory riot of colour, big riffs, lush vocals and unhinged lyrics. A solar system away from the soulless arena and stadium shows, this is a truly interactive, in-your-face experience.
Papa Shango – The Six Six Bar, Cambridge – 22 October 2022
Words: Paul Monkhouse
The grinding guitars and big rhythms of Press It open the set, it’s mix of rap and rock an almost deliriously heady mixture when added to the sight of the band’s two six-stringers and a banana charging through the audience, the other eight, yes eight, members of the band gyrating on the stage.
A quick costume change that sees Mama Karen and the Pappettes riding hobby horses for Highwayman brings total chaos as Papa Shango, his gravity-defying top hat almost scraping the ceiling, wields his cane like a broadsword.
The ridiculously addictive groove of Flight Check and a bouncing Check Your Phone kept up the energy and lunacy levels before the bizarre interlude of someone from the audience getting their ‘hair’ cut onstage was another twist. Whilst breaking the flow of the set, the stunt did at least give the band time to take a breath, the temperature in the bar approaching sauna temperature.
Buoys Ahoy ramped things up again with its AC/DC style boogie, wonderfully juxtaposed with the 1930s jazzy showgirl style chorus from the Pappettes. Take away all the costumes, the props and the wildly inventive audience participation, and you’ve got some solid songs, the wrapping of the extras emphasising and not compensating for lack of writing skills.
Section 5 has a deliciously huge ’70s funk groove. The spiky New Wave of Master Baker and the Led Zeppelin meets The Rocky Horror Show dynamics of Nine Darts are all played with both wild abandon and precision.
By the time the confetti sprays all over the audience at the climax of the show, it’s all you can do but stand there dazed, a ridiculous grin on your face and vowing to make the next show.
It may not be high art to some, but it’s certainly huge fun, really well performed, and with an edge that’s just on the right side of risk, taking you to the very brink of the cliff.
This is rock ‘n’ roll, reinvented by brilliant and dangerous minds. See a Papa Shango show and never be the same again.