Das Contras: Live at Cafe Royal review

A cold and wet November evening in Edinburgh was rapidly replaced with the welcoming warmth and soul of Das Contras in Cafe Royal.

Initial impressions of the ensemble on stage were of lounge music. But only if your lounge is painted a deep terracotta, you have a nightly group of Latino beauties dressed in tight black dresses tossing back large glasses of red wine until four in the morning threatening to steal your soul and replace it with a never ending madness of melancholy and passion.

From beginning to end there was no defining lead person, all of them extremely adept at their relative instruments with attention shifting from sax to keyboard to bass to guitar to the singing. The band had left any egos at the front door to concentrate on the music.

Dave Webster's head was lost in the sound created by his keyboard nodding in time to the audience's reciprocating appreciation, so smoothly and timely executed. This was complemented by Sherman Watson on acoustic and lead vocals, a charismatic presence despite his shambolic appearance. The drums and bass provided the backbone of timeless soul shaking grooves and the funk needed, holding back to add a more subtle flavour to the slower numbers. The bass guitarist was all over his instrument, especially when the strap fell off his shoulder appearing to propose to the drummer on one knee for the rest of the song. The horn section added that final harmony. The sax was (I can't believe I'm writing this) a tranquil yet also a powerful force driving the band, while at other times entirely uplifting.

A refreshing change to guitar bands, their maturity and obviously studied dedication to their craft created layers of warmth of sometimes up beat jazz and reggae to despairing sadness. Think Ruben Wilson, gypsy violins, Miles Davies, filterless French cigarettes, The Bosstones, bull fighting and Ray Manzerick and you'll probably wonder what the hell I'm talking about.

There appeared to be a fairly large fan base with them and rightly so. It was not just a gig but a celebration and a chance to party.

A joy to watch and even better to listen to.

By: Chris Catley - Live Music Direct

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