REVIEW: Fantastic Negrito better than ever in Berkeley

Fantastic Negrito

Photos: Karen Goldman

BERKELEY — How do you review someone as good as Fantastic Negrito? The man is a master showman, and his music is incredible. Every time I’ve seen him perform has been better than the last, and Saturday night’s show at the UC Theatre kept that streak alive. But my editor still expects more than, “I expected him to be great and he totally was.”

As one would expect, most of his set was from his Grammy-winning album The Last Days of Oakland. There’s a reason it won a Grammy after all. If anything, it should have won more, especially in a year when the best album didn’t even come out in the right year.

Anyway, back to the show. The aspect that improves every time is the stage banter. The lead-in to each song becomes the introduction to a story, part spoken and part sung, that gives the show an almost theatrical quality. It’s something that probably shouldn’t work, and frankly doesn’t when most artists try, but in this case makes the show that much more engrossing.

Seriously, if you live in the Bay Area and haven’t been to one of Fantastic Negrito’s shows, you’re doing everything wrong.

Even the all-local opening acts were great. Oakland’s The Jamming Nachos are the sort of pure rock-and-roll band you don’t see nearly enough of anymore, which impressed me even more when I found out that the oldest member of the group is 17. If they’re rocking out to that degree at an age when I still thought “Walkin’ on the Sun” was good, I’m looking forward to their development.

Next up was San Francisco’s MAD NOISE, a punk-blues-funk group of former street musicians who came together to drop jaws in the crowd. They were the sort of opening act that pulled people in from the lobby and the bar. They have an album coming out soon, and I’m already looking forward to hearing it.

What I’m saying here is that you should go to his next show. And the one after that. You’ll thank me.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Follow photographer Karen Goldman at and

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