Friday 26th August
Electric Fields Festival
Sound: Atmosphere: Performance:
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen
Friday 26th August
Electric Fields Festival
Sound: Atmosphere: Performance:
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen
Sound: Atmosphere: Performance:
There are not enough stars available for this glorious Edinburgh Festival happening. This was one of those moments when you know you are watching history being made. Those who were there will never forget they were and it will be talked about for years to come.
This Grit Orchestra is made up of musicians from all musical walks of life, some reading music and some learning by ear. There are around 80 members in this group, led by Greg Lawson, the orchestrator of Martyn Bennett’s album. There is something beautiful about witnessing a group of people creating an overwhelming musical experience. This ‘Celtic’ music is by no means easy, in fact it is complex with dance beat undertones, flowing traditional melodies and polyphonic orchestral weavings. All of the technical finesse is underpinned by amazing energy, commitment and passion.
Bennett was born in Canada and moved to Scotland with his mother Margaret Bennett, a Gaelic singer and folklorist from Skye. His natural ability on the highland bagpipes led to him later studying violin, piano and composition at Broughton Music School and then the RSAMD.
His catalogue of output included pieces for bagpipes and string quartet, which led to Lawson’s belief that had Bennett lived longer, he would have finally written for orchestra, confirming that the orchestrated version of GRIT was the perfect progression for his music.
The original album was composed during Bennett’s struggle with cancer and as his ability to play his instruments began to waver, he used his electronic skills more and more, pulling together samples from many traditional songs, singers and storytellers including Sheila Stewart, Lizzie Higgins and Mairi Morrison. This is a celebration of Scotland’s past placed in the now.
Stand out movements included MOVE containing fragments from ‘Moving On Song’ (Ewan MacColl) and Blackbird containing parts of ‘What A Voice, What A Voice’ (sung by Lizzie Higgins on the original recording, daughter of Jeannie Robertson). The tradition packed into this music is immense and we left full of inspiration to listen to these original recordings and beyond. The personal hope is that these original folk geniuses are listened too and sought out by all those who hear this music The singers in the Grit Orchestra have huge boots to fill and they showed skill and power as they soared above and through the orchestra.
The result of Greg Lawson’s orchestration and Bennett’s original vision was a thrilling, modern Celtic, Scottish fusion that was quite breathtaking. Music crossing boundaries and borders, people coming together to create something very special indeed.
The full house audience was buzzing before a note was played and the evening certainly did not disappoint. An electric evening! There was a 10 minutes standing ovation, two encores and a moving audience singalong of Paisley Spin (which isn’t on the original album). The audience would happily have listened to the whole album again, one member of the audience requested exactly that! As we all sang the final encore the orchestra gentle left the stage, section by section, leaving the audience singing “To each and everyone of you, I say goodbye, farewell, adieu.” Perfect, poignant, a lasting memory.
Be part of this legacy. Go see GRIT wherever and whenever you can. Buy the album. Listen to the music of Bennett and all those who feature on his album.
Reviewed by Ali Bell and Denise Borland
Acoustic Music Centre
20th & 21st August
Sound: Atmosphere: Performance:
Situated in the West side of Edinburgh, the Acoustic Music Centre played host to Melody of Love & Shadows presented to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time by Saudha, Society of Poetry and Indian Music. This was their first trip north to the Edinburgh Fringe and they were extremely eager to allow us into their cosmic world of traditional Indian Folk music. With words, poetry, musical instruments and voice this was certain to be a pilgrimage through the myriad landscapes of microcosmic India. Within this extravaganza of musicians we were nobly presented with Chandra Chakraborty (vocals), Kamalbir Nandra (violin), Chiranjit Mukherjee (Tabla) and Erik Schelander ( Traubadour). Together they trapped us within a world of wonderful classical Indian music.
Taken straight from the heart of the subcontinent and presented with such beauty, this was soon becoming a relaxed & hypnotic moment in time. Classical folk music possesses a timeless energy, allowing us to connect with our ancestors through music that is traditionally handed down to each generation. Blending story-telling with a concoction of well-known Indian instruments, they brought to life a magical but subtle sound moulded by their native lands’ diverse and musical influences. Close your eyes, relax, drift away and take a spiritual journey through the natural beauty that is India. With a voice that transcends anything I have heard before, one becomes intoxicated with what you are hearing and witnessing.Like floating on a cloud you feel weightless, trapped in a bubble of delightful images.
The bringing together of poetry, verse, music, and story telling is an art in itself. Allowing this timeless show to captivate you embalms the spirit with a sense of peace and placement in life. Tranquility is a major part of this moving and beautiful show… like being cleansed in holy water, we are submerged by a feeling of contentment. But it is not all about the music – visually, Sauda capture the essence of cultural India, with eye-catching traditional dress and gentle body movements, creating a magical piece of Indian culture. If a nature’s history and cultural identity has to be preserved, then there is no better way than to share it with the world… and Melody of Love and Shadows plan to do exactly that.
Reviewed by Raymond Speedie
16 August 2016
Stepping away from the Edinburgh Festival pandemonium on Princes Street, Icelandic post-rock giants Sigur Rós arrived to provide some essential tranquillity and transcendental sensations to the crushed eardrums. Having only had the opportunity to see the band once before, a misspent hour trying to discern their glorious creations above a conga-line of vest-topped ‘lads-on-tour’ types at Benicassim Festival in Spain eight years ago, not disregarding a breath-taking solo performance by frontman Jónsi Birgisson in Glasgow’s hideous O2 Academy around 2009, I highly anticipated this gig inside the capital’s Playhouse arena.
Stepping into the seated theatre arena and observing the stage exhibited in a sylvan display befitting of the menacing Metz-adverts from the late 1990’s, it was clear that this was going to be more of a show – and ultimately, less of a gig. The cinematic projections flickering behind the band trio of vocalist Birgisson, bassist Goggi Holm and drummer Ori Pall Dyrason did little to enhance opener ‘Óveður’ slow-burning and understated entrance. Remaining partially hidden, it was a gentle beginning to proceedings from a band with no new albums since ‘Kveikur’ three years ago.
Despite the minimal movement and the bowed heads of the band through the duration of the show, the graceful birdsongs emanating from Birgisson, presented in the hopelandic approach which the band is so famously lauded for, breathes life into daydreams and sets the audience at ease during songs such as ‘Starálfur’ from 1999 album ‘Agaetis Byrjun’. Ten years since Sigur Rós acclaimed ‘Takk’ album have now passed but there was no suspension of affection afforded to the stunning ‘Sæglópur’ with its uplifting keys, mimicking the Mogwai-blueprint of slow build-up being destroyed by Dyrason’s thundering drums broadly filling the venue, whilst doubling up as pianist right of stage. The glorious strains of ‘Glósóli’ from the same album also resonated with the crowd with its ingenuous, slow-march wonderment suiting the dewy-eyed audience.
It may have been the setting, beautiful as the Edinburgh Playhouse is, which seemed to sit uneasy with me at this point of the concert. The connection between band and audience is non-existent with the exception of a solitary thank you from Birgisson half-way through the set, and the overall output seems poorer for the absence of former keyboardist Kjarri Sveinsson. Even Birgisson looks tired, stripped of the feather head-dresses and playful attitude from years gone by, only once threatening to come alive during ‘E-Bow’ from 2011 live motion picture and album ‘Inni’, before returning to his sorrowful crooning. It could simply be that Sigur Rós are one of those bands who simply work best at home with headphones on and eyes closed, but after promises from the Icelandic trio to showcase a sense of adventure during their forthcoming dates, the concert was at threat of twisting itself into one, long self-hug as boredom crept in. Why exactly drummer Dyrason had to take his shirt off is anyone’s guess as the only bead of sweat in the theatre belonged to the bar manager who opted to close the bar before the first song had finished – a poor move at what, essentially, is considered to be a post-rock gig.7
Of course, there were moments to be cherished too. ‘Hafsol’, the B-side to big hitter ‘Hoppipola’ (omitted from tonight’s setlist) was a tender slice of pop added into the band’s setlist, while ‘Kveikur’, the title track from the band’s seventh album in 2013 is a distorted, ugly rumble showcasing Holm’s bass at its heaviest and Dyrason’s strength behind his kit, all the while red lava spews upon the crimson-lit screens behind. While it is an arduous task for any band to connect with a seated audience, the final number of a fifteen-song set belonged to ‘Untitled 1 – Vaka’, with pre-recorded cello, glockenspiel, and violins all accompanying Birgisson’s lyrics “You sigh low tonight, you’re so alone”.
It was an interesting lyric. Around the Playhouse, the crowd were on their feet, standing ovations awarded to the stage-bowing trio, appeased that they had got their money’s-worth. For this reviewer however, it was a disappointment. No bantering crowd. Lack of connection. Samey-songs. More show than gig. Sighing lowly, I felt alone with my thoughts, unable to connect with what the rest of the audience seemed to be feeling. Once, I had travelled to Reykjavik due to my love for the band and what it represented. Perhaps the expectations had been set too high all along.
Reviewer : Stephen Watt
St Bride’s Acoustic Centre
10th & 11th August
Going to see Americn trad-band Kiya Heartwood & Tejas is what the Edinburgh fringe is all about. My god-daughter’s band were up from Lancashire at the Fringe, & Kiya very kindly gave us all tickets to witness her, I can only see, musical genius at work. What a lovely story-teller Kiya is, backed up by Janna on electric guitar & the highly accomplished raven-haired Anna on fiddle, they transported us across the oceans to the heart & soul of American music, forged in many a fire-lit mountain cabin over the centuries.
Kiya’s songwriting ranges over topics which strike something in her poet’s soul – a stike in 1900 in Pennsylvania, the slaughter of 1400 Native American horses, the rush & flush of Flamenco music, its all there as she crafts her beautiful, meaningful songs which all possess the kick of an angry mule. Of these, there was a wonder in her Burial Ground, which we were all invited to sing-a-long to – & we did. Her accomplice, Janna, also shared the stage with a well-wrought number, concerning her youthful angst at growing up in the New Mexico… ‘Im trying not to be Midwestern,’ she tells us, ‘but I keep it all inside & it tends to fester.‘
Their last number was a rip-roaring rendition of Drowsy Maggie, & one notices the Celtic roots in all her work. This is why she loves Scotland so much, I guess, & returns to perform to her much-appreciative audience. It was a special hour or so with the ladies & the Mumble wishes them well as they play one more gig at St Brides Acoustic Centre today, before training it & ferrying it all the way to Ventnor on the Isle of White – a long journey, but being American they’d be used to it.
Reviewer Damian Beeson Bullen
Just the Tonic at the Community Project, Edinburgh
86 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, EH1 2QA
Daft hats, black suits, bright ties and a plethora of patchwork JunNk are aiming for the laugh at me because we are silly market.’JunNk are Edinburgh premiere of Event Awards’ Act of the Year 2013 winners. A dynamic and original variety show where four performers use nothing but junk to create their distinctive music, comedy and frolics. Sometimes barber quartet, a cappella singing, percussion and innovative music creations, JunNk is a feel good and lively show that’s fun for all the family. Favourites of Amanda Holden, JunNk are a theatre company utilising performing arts elements; from dance to drum and back again via watering can instrument like you have never heard before, singing (into long handled brushes) JunNk perform each show with nothing but rubbish.Sam McGowan, Russell Brooks, Jake Briggs, & Liam Raymond are JunNk and your children will be smiling for the whole performance…except perhaps when they come looking for bottle breathing volunteers when they might suddenly spring a look of sheer horror. Their light performance is really good, if you have seen the floating heads at Kelvingrove Art Galleries and Museums then you have a good idea of what to expect.
The Clangers meets Stig of the Dump, the grunts and noises that accompany the talented drumming didn’t do it for me but clearly ticked all the right boxes for the younger members of the audience.Their carnival atmosphere with instruments created from what looked like spray painted office water bottles to gaffa taped beer/juice bottles cleverly recreating South American pan pipes was pretty cool as was their ability to create tuneful sounds from them. Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious was a highlight as was Survivor’s Eye of The Tiger. If you have never seen a band drumming the floor and their shoes not to mention their hard hat percussion and drummers version of the mexican wave then this one is for you. Lion King fans are in for a treat.This is a definite hit and one that your kids will thank you for.
Reviewer : Clare Crines
Salutation Hotel, Perth
31st July 2016
Sound: Atmosphere: Performance:
The ballroom of the Salutation Hotel is one of the alternative venues used by Southern Fried to hold its gigs and concerts. It has a more intimate atmosphere and lends itself to smaller, subtler acts than you tend to get in the main auditorium of the Perth Concert Hall. For the Owens / Meade afternoon concert the hotel’s small ballroom was set out café-style, with tables covered in white linen (specially imported from the streets of Laredo? – how would I know!), and plush chairs.
Dean Owens’ three-piece fits the subtler bracket. There’s a kind of ad hoc feel to them, and although they might have been playing together on-and-off for the past twenty years or so, since Dean and bassist Kevin McGuire formed The Felsons, it’s like they just got together for the gig, and that gives it a family-feel. Another example of a bunch of middle-aged Scotsmen getting up to sing and play, this time country rather than blues – another group of lovable, embarrassing uncles!
Their set this afternoon was almost exclusively Hank Williams songs, which Dean executes brilliantly, having learned to emulate rather than imitate the singing of ‘The Hillbilly Shakespeare’. His delivery is absolutely convincing, and by the time he got to the encore of ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’, well… yes… you could! Stuart Nesbit delivered a low-key accompaniment on pedal steel that fitted perfectly. I was less convinced by his singing and by his picking of his No.2 guitar, a Gibson ES-355 (unless I mis-identify it), but – hell! – I can’t play a note myself. There is a knack to making a standard guitar sound like a pedal steel, and I did hear that coming through from time-to-time. If you are a Hank Williams fan, Dean Owens’ outfit is well worth checking out if they come to a pub or club near you.
Daniel Meade and the Flying Mules came close to swamping this venue with sound. I don’t honestly think you could ramp it up any more than this and get away with it at the Salutation, and the result was that sometimes vocals were overdriven and got lost. Having said that, what a brilliant act!
Meade stands there, his face as dour as an Easter Island statue, a lean figure, sartorially somewhere between a 60s Mod, Oasis, and Gram Parsons. Occasionally he smiles, occasionally he has a brief word with the audience. That all seems to go with the band’s fairly minimal approach – there’s no fancy-Dan multi-instrumental nonsense, they just get up there and do what they do, full scale deflection on the meter, and that’s that. They play fast and loud, they play with a frantic rockabilly drive, they harmonise, and they’re amazing. You tend not to notice Thomas Sutherland’s drumming, but that’s how it should be – a Chevy V8 ticking over in the background, like a getaway car waiting for the gang to burst out of the bank. Mark Ferrie, in a bowling shirt and selvedge Levis with four-inch cuffs, plays slap bass. No, he plays slappitty bass. No, he plays slappitty-slap bass. No he… doggone it, boy, just how many slappitties you got in that thang, anyhow!
On to Lloyd Reid, the Meade sideman who deserves a special, individual mention. A dude with a George V beard, he gets more sounds than I would have thought possible out of an amplified, vintage Hofner arch-top. There’s no need for him to have an extra guitar, this old axe of his is enough. Earlier on I mentioned the sound of a pedal steel being occasionally heard courtesy of Stuart Nesbit’s Gibson. Well, on Reid’s Hofner it came through clear as a chapel bell on Sunday. Not only that, he can make it rock, make it cry, hit it so hard it’s a wonder the damn thing doesn’t hit him back! He is a phenomenon. His guitar is the same model as one I have at home, and I’m now ashamed to pick mine up. Wow! This is how I like my Country music, just how Daniel Meade and the Flying Mules play it, like drinking bourbon straight from the bottle. Dammit, like getting hit over the head with the bottle! Brilliant. Walk over broken glass to hear them play – that’s an order.
Reviewed by Paul Thompson
Perth Concert Hall
Saturday 30th July 2016
Sound: Atmosphere: Performance:
I freely admit that I would walk through fire to hear Yola Carter sing. Southern Fried Festival continues to showcase marvels of crossover Americana and tonight was no exception. Yola’s voice is such that she really ought to be a Diva, but her interaction and chit-chatting with the audience stops that happening. Thank God she’s that down-to-earth and actually looks as though she’s enjoying herself. That’s because she is. Yola is backed by a country band, yet there is so much soul in her voice that it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Stax or Atlantic 45. I compare her voice to that of Judy Clay or Carla Thomas, but when she hits the turbo button she out-Turners Tina. Imagine her with a horn section instead of a fiddle behind her, and the set would move from Nashville to Memphis in a heartbeat. It was no surprise when, a few Southern Frieds ago, she came on stage to duet with the legendary Eddie Floyd – that’s the kind of voice she has, it’s made for R&B but it blasts country into orbit.
And yet she’s English. From Bristol, already.The backing is incredibly polished, the band expert, and when her two guitarists provide vocal harmony, it has something of the quality of the Punch Brothers. If you caught the STV news broadcast the previous Thursday, you will have heard a snatch of an unplugged song of hers – ‘Heed My Words’. I was there when they filmed it, and I had the song as an earworm all day after that. Performed with the band, the song is mournful and wistful, and recalls Samantha Crain’s ‘If I Had A Dollar’, but bleaker and in triple time. Her ‘Free To Roam’, played late in the set, came the closest to pure soul, and that’s when the Carter-Turner Overdrive cut in and blew the audience away. No time for an encore, though, as the evening was running on a schedule…
Imelda May was unknown to me, except from publicity photos and one track. I deliberately kept it that way before the performance, because I wanted to be surprised. I just wasn’t ready for what did explode onto the stage. Gone were the 1940s waitress-fetish outfits and the kiss-curl – gimmicks, distractions, whatever – and onto a stage full of ghoulish purple and deep red lighting came a black-haired young woman in a little-black-dress, fishnets, and boots, who could shimmy like nobody’s sister Kate! The fetish was thrown away, the actual sexual power was ramped up beyond toleration. The sound was gothabilly laced with blues and country, with surprising shots of jazz trumpet, and here and there a dash of – what? – mambo. Imelda’s voice, imagine Rachel Sweet all grown-up and on NZT-48 – look, I’m sorry, I do this in these reviews, I spend a lot of time comparing artistes to other artistes, it’s because I’m very old, and I have no intention of stopping – until yet another turbo button is pushed and extra power and range is unleashed.
The backing band on the night was tight as an Olympic-standard bowstring, basic, and rocking. The lead guitarist (yeah here I go again) reminded me of Paul Burlison, Link Wray, or Dick Dale, but again with a full tank of cognitive enhancer. The set was fantastic, less chit-chat than Yola Carter gave, until the point where Imelda felt she knew us, and any distance the gothic black may have created just dissolved. Of course her hit ‘Johnny’s Got A Boom Boom’ came near the end, and why not! But recognising a track I had heard was simply no big deal. I loved her upbeat stuff with the slap bass pounding away, but her slower numbers really took hold of me in a way I hadn’t expected. There was Willie Dixon’s ‘Spoonful’, played at zero mph – and I mean zero miles per hour Kelvin! Imelda expressed trepidation at playing a new song, but encouraged by the audience she did, her voice mellowing as she gave us heartbreak…
When you cry,
Cry for the living
Not for the dying,
Soon I’ll be free.
I’m flying home,
That’s where I’m going.
Cry for the living,
Don’t cry for me…
…though the second half of the set was mainly methanol-fuelled rock. For an encore, Imelda came back on stage after her bass player, who had tipped his bass onto its side and was sitting on it playing softly on a Ukelele. She sat down beside him, got half of the room to sing very softly the ‘Doo-de-doos’ from Lou Reed’s ‘Take A Walk On The Wild Side’, while the other half repeated the words ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, and then delivered her song with our accompaniment, making us integral to the performance. I would now walk through fire to hear her sing too. I suggest you do the same. See Yola Carter, see Imelda May, at any available opportunity. If you don’t have an opportunity, bloody well make one! I have no superlatives. I am running out of stars to give. There are not points enough for sound, atmosphere, and performance. If I could give six stars I would. End of.
Reviewed : Paul Thompson