National Museum of Scotland 8, 15 & 22 Aug 2014 7.30pm £16 (£14)
Encounter the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) as never before with some late night entertainment. Especially for the Fringe Festival, the NMS opens its doors ‘after hours’ for adults (18+) to experience the grand opulence of the Grand Gallery while sipping wine, see special exhibitions, live snippets of festival shows and creative events. For three nights during August you can see all this in a not-so-average festival venue.
From the main entrance on Chamber Street we found the Brasserie was still open for nibbles, dinner and drinks, a brisk stroll upstairs lead you to the bustling and vibrant Grand Gallery. The Main Stage was slap bang in the middle of the space so standing room was at a premium; visitors lined the balcony above to obtain a better view. Queues for the bars either side of the vast hall added to the congestion, the above average prices for below average fizz, wine and bottled beer failed to deter the thirsty visitors. The word ‘BAR’ was projected across the wall for ease of navigation. If you wanted to explore the other areas of the museum you had to leave the drinks behind, which for me, took some of the shine off the evening. There would have been something deliciously naughty about wandering through atmospherically lit exhibits, whilst sipping on a glass of vino. But it was understandable that they were keen to avoid any drunken Ming vase mishaps!
The museum was divided into several performance and activity areas for the night. The aforementioned Main Stage had a varied bill including a trombone quartet, capella singers, comedy tap dancers and a taki maori haka experience – an eclectic mix indeed! Music and chatter echoed around the cavernous Grand Gallery atrium. Old school 50’s Jazz played between acts taking the party people back in time, along with some of the artefacts surrounding us. Over in the Auditorium we were treated to some hypnotic Mongolian grunge and ‘comedy, magic and science’ courtesy of the affable Oliver Meech. The diversity of the acts tied in nicely with the spirit of the museum itself.
My personal highlight of the evening was upstairs in the Event Space. Here we could don white gloves and handle ancient Egyptian artefacts, participate in art & crafts and have our photo taken by the wonderfully silly team from Photo Bubble Booth. Hats, horns, moustaches, goggles, masks, and myriad other accessories littered the floor. You were given eight seconds between photos to dress up as daftly as possible and strike a pose – great fun! Plus it was a nice memento to take away from an enjoyable evening.
Visitors were able to enjoy free entry to the exhibition Ming: The Golden Empire, usually costing £6.50/£8. This special exhibition was an overview of the legacy of the Ming Dynasty, ruling China between 1368-1644. There were also an occasional surprise acts popping up around the site. Too much to experience in only three hours. As darkness fell the atmosphere definitely improved, those inevitable ‘Night of the Museum’ scenarios seem to be more possible! Alas the T Rex failed to move even after a large glass of vino tinto! FOUR STARS
Yesterday Avo I saw a Godfather and God-daughter song-writing team that look set to blow Adele out of the water. All original compositions penned by the brain-child behind the street-review Blog ‘themumble.net,’ Mr Damo Bullen plays Bass, who with drummer, Mr Luke Grifiths, provide a very funky rhythm section. Then along came the very, very cute Al Roberts on rhythm guitar and Roy Saunders on melodica & mandolin completing a sonic template for the amazing voice of Kae-Lei Stowell.
A Fourteen year old with an amazingly powerful vocal range that brought tears to my eyes. This always happens when I experience Genius. For a girl to have such realised gift at the age of 14 I am confident in saying that Kae Lei Stowell gave the best vocal performance I have witnessed this Summer season and feel blessed to have been moved by such a fine performance of Rock n Roll.
The Cowshed,in the Cowgate has the perfect dance floor all dusty and strewn with straw. With a band as good as this, I was hooked immediately, and the funky moves began. A new band,original songs and with such an impassioned, evolving soul Diva as Kae Lie Stowell leading the quartet. How could they go wrong. FIVE STARS
O’Neill’s performance was strong and energetic from the start. He erupted onto the stage wielding an electric guitar, a wealth of musical knowledge and a keen sense of humour, all of which he shared forthright and throughout the show with an excited audience. Despite the shows title ‘History of Heavy Metal’, this show is not only for lovers of heavy metal music, but for all. O’Neill is both informative and entertaining in his deliverance, and if his knowledge and his passion does not draw you in his witty jokes and charismatic energy will. When a performer enjoys doing their own show so much its hard not to enjoy it with them and in this case it’s evident how much O’Neill enjoys fusing two of his passions, Heavy Metal Music and its life span and his own art form, stand up comedy.
When I said this show was for all I meant it. I went with two of my counterparts who like myself were never big on Heavy Metal, however we left the venue after the performance with a new found understanding, or for want of a better word curiosity, for a music genre and its disciples, a warm feeling as though we’d been welcomed into a new community and sore sides faces from laughing for the best part of an hour. We are all in agreement that for this show Andrew O’Neill with his magnetic enthusiasm, passionate knowledge but mostly his whimsical personality and performance has earned himself all FIVE STARS.
This is how it should be done.I joined a couple of friends waiting in a Que. The elevator doors opened and we stepped inside and down we went. Imagine being transported back to Andy Warhol’s art factory in 1967.
Only Andy had borrowed a Tardis to travel into the future to persuade Lux Interior, Poison Ivy, Nick Knox and Aphex Twin to collaborate with The Velvet Underground in an immersive cutting edge art project that was multi media and packed to the rim with everything that would captivate and engage my pleasure buttons. The spirit of Andy Warhol was very present. He was smiling. And like me. He, loved it. FIVE STARS
The British love a good impersonator, the ability to emulate to a tee some famous figure off the telly. However, to do this with the unbelievably beautiful, million-single selling singing voices of the the world’s greatest ever divas takes some doing – yet Christina Bianco pulls it off with an ear-shattering ease. Joining her (in drag) is her taller, more hairier equally as powerful a singer, Velma Celli. They clearly share chemistry on & off stage, & seem to love every second they spend singing together.
The show consists of a wide choice of costumes, & an even wider selection of Divas both dead & alive – Gwen Stefani, Cher, Shania Twain, Billie Holiday & many more all get the Bianco treatment throughout the 70 mins of this pulsating, ear-trembling, soul-quivering show. Velma is more than just a comedy side-kick, & her diva exit towards the end of the show is absolute genius. I, & just about everybody else in the audience, were completely blown away by the bacchanalian energy of Bianco & Celli, which coomplled many to stand clapping in ovation at the end of the show. A well worthy FIVE STARS.
To a packed Usher Hall, the ever-amiable EIF director Jonathan Mills delivered his opening speech, highlighting the themes of this year’s season, from war-theme plays to South African extravaganzas, celebrating 20 years of that nation’s independence. Together, he called this year’s offerings would, ‘defy the immediate circumstances of their creation.’
Then came the first half of the concert, the first offering controlled with one of the world’s two best conductors, Oliver Knussen (the other is the 90-year old ). This was Arnold Schoenburg’s FIVE PIECES FOR OCHESTRA OP 16, a wonderful piece of quite modernist music that is over a century old. We are presented with quite an otherworldly sound, the third piece in particular reminiscent of walking through a swamp, with bubbles of music rising to the surface. Schoenburg called this piece ‘summer morning by a lake.’ The music somehow paints colours in the mind as this eerie soundworld immerses one’s thoughts in dreaming.
The second piece was Scriabin’s PROMETHEUS, THE POEM OF FIRE, & indeed the music
flows as if one were reading poetry, as a series of short musical flourishes making for a splendid composite whole. At the front-centre of the stage, Kirill Gerstein dramtically waved his arms & danced his fingers over his gleaming ebony grand piano. Deeply engaging, this pre-great war slice of Scriabin’s avant-garde mind was performed beautifully by the orchestra, the highly watchable Royal Scottish Orchestra. With the excellent acoustics of the Usher Hall to cast their melodical medley up into, the music was a joy to hear
“Yes I was that soldier !” Glen observes as he introduces the show. The performance is an 80 minute mélange of reminiscences and songs from a varied career that was launched when he was catapulted from the anonymity of working behind the counter in Malcolm MacLaren’s shop to national infamy as bass player with the Sex Pistols.
Glen describes the beginnings of the Sex Pistols including the pivotal role that the Sensational Alex Harvey Band had in influencing MacLaren’s thinking about how the Pistols might present themselves. He recounts his time with the post-Pistols band The Rich Kids that also featured Midge Ure and Rusty Egan. He also talks in detail about his work with Iggy Pop on the Soldier album and notes that his first meeting with David Bowie who also worked on that album was memorable (DB – ‘I believe you were in the Sex Pistols’ .. GM ‘Yeh’ … DB [haughtily and dismissively] ‘Ah the Noble Savage’ … Glen thinking to himself ‘what a cunt’). Glen recounts with pride and affection his recent contribution to The Faces who were always big heroes of his when he was growing up in London.
The songs Glen performed solo with his Gibson acoustic guitar included the two Pistols classics ‘God Save the Queen’ (‘this is a song I wrote and John wrote the lyrics’) and ‘Pretty Vacant’. The most powerful performance was his rendition of ‘Ambition’ that he wrote for Iggy Pop and features on the Soldier album.
This was a compelling gig – fascinating and enjoyable in equal measure. The ex Sex Pistol Glen Matlock is a thoroughly nice bloke ! My only gripe is that 80 minutes was nowhere near long enough – we never did get to hear why he left the Sex Pistols – I guess I will have to buy the book of the same name. The show runs until Wednesday the 6th August and I would recommend catching it. FOUR STARS
It’s Camille O’Sullivan’s 10th year as part of the Edinburgh Fringe and this maverick diva’s loyal fans were out in force to welcome her. And rightly so. She has a voice that cuts to the core and her eclectic mix of songs and burly stage presence create a musical journey that takes you from laughter to melancholic awe in the beat of a heart. Time dissolves and the hour and a half show felt like minutes as she reinvents a plethora of classic songs and sings with a heartfelt passion that ricochets around the theatre. The audience sits spell bound as she slips from Bowie to Cohen, Dilly Keane to Nick Cave, her delivery reminding you of the poetry of song and the narrative power of music, all the while breaking the somber mood with her fiery character.
Her present persona of drag king contrasts starkly with her previous image of glamorous drunken diva, swings and ball gowns hang around the stage like ghosts of the character who is constantly reinventing herself as effortlessly as the songs she delivers with such unbridled emotion.
This woman is a living legend though and her shows will sell out without a doubt, and rightly so, she takes you back to the days of smouldering cabaret and reminds you of the emotive depth of music. A standing ovation from a wildly appreciated audience speaks volumes. FOUR STARS
Far from the snoozy pews of sermonic preachings, these 5 snappily dressed young South-African singers filled the cavernous rooves of St John’s church with such a wonderful feel for singing that it felt as if they had summoned the spirit of all Africa & flung into Scotland’s capital. Plucked form obscurity busking the streets of Johannesburgh, they are now touring Britain delivering a well-thought out & eclectic 20-song selection of South- African songsmithery.
The band consist of five singers who perform their musical a capella, & sang to a global audience at the opening ceremony of teh World Cup. Reaching such heady heights was not a coincidence, & their performance is quite simply excellent. Add this to the magnification of their music in the acosutics of a Christian Church, I defy anyone to not be moved by the occasion. FIVE STARS.
This massive venue on The Meadows says a lot about the scale of this production. 3 shows every day seating up to 800 people. This commercial behemoth draws office workers, hen nights, grannies and the curious. A quick headcount reveals a gender ratio of 70/30 in favour of female.
We couldn’t get our premium table as there were people sitting there, the venue having double booked the table. We said to the staff and were moved to another table but with a reduced view. We were also searched on the way in which I found intrusive. Over-priced drinks, Thai food and gaudy merchandise. This is a money spinning juggernaut. There’s a nice outdoor seating/smoking area for use during the interval.
The show itself is a colourful extravaganza with a backing track of cheesy pop and evergreen crowd pleasers like Tina Turners “Simply the Best”. The costumes and dancing are well appointed but it’s a shame they need to mime the words. The ladyboys themselves are splendid and perform a variety of hits with some funny audience interaction as the pull some embarrassed guys from the crowd for some predictable antics. As you book tables this is ideal for an alternative girlie sing-along but perhaps those seeking a dose of Thai culture should look elsewhere. THREE STARS