I first fell a little bit in love with Duke Special when I saw him last year at Greenbelt (well, if I'm going to be entirely honest, it started when I saw his picture in the programme, all smudgy eyeliner and dreads falling across his face, perched beside an ancient gramophone). Last year's gig was a large-scale affair on a big outdoor stage accompanied by a motley assortment of musicians.
This evening was a solo performance in the comparatively intimate setting of the Glee Club (my first ever visit there, and I was duly impressed - nice food and fully seated, which these days is a definite plus point!)
The evening started well with an unusual support act by the unlikely name of The Voluntary Butler Scheme (aka Rob) - several songs began with him creating on-the-fly samples of percussion and backing vocals which then formed the backing track for the rest of the song.
Moving on to the main attraction, we were treated to an evening of amazing variety and inventiveness. (The projection of snippets of old film onto the surface of a drum was a nice touch.) I can't think think of any other artist who could get away with following an audience singalong of "Down at the old Bull and Bush" with a decidedly idiosyncratic rendering of Prince's "I feel for you". But perhaps he's at his best in 'vaudeville mode', crashing piano over a background of crackling gramophone .
You can always tell you're having a good evening when you suddenly catch yourself sitting there with a huge idiotic grin on your face (over the years, I've come to think of it as 'Blyth Power Syndrome'). I found myself searching for the perfect adjective to describe Duke, but it's hard to narrow it down to one... charming, quirky, talented, theatrical, engaging, extraordinary, adorable (did I mention the eyeliner and dreads? I did? Oh... right). But if you had to sum him up in a single word, you could do a lot worse than 'special' - this performer is truly Special in every good sense of the word!
Here's a little taster...