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
All the way from Australia comes Michael Griffiths to bring us his alter ego, “the most famous bitch on the planet” – Madonna to the festival, upstairs in the plush Playhouse Bar.
Playing with his baby grand piano, with his dapper smart shirt, braces and slick hairdo, he reads and sings Louise Ciccone’s diary and back catalogue with panache, style and feeling, whilst drinking out of the finest china known to mangina!
Any decent Madge fan will get his Gaga gags: on royalties: “if you can’t resist the delicious rush from stealing music – then steal gagas” meow!
He’s got style, that’s what all the guys n dolls say, Michael is a fantastic cabaret act, he’ll l ‘take you there’, go see. FOUR STARS.
If you are looking for some music throughout the Fringe, I can’t do much better than point you in the direction of the Tron Church. This year is the first time that the PBH free fringe has moved into the realms of music, taking over the iconic church at the heart of Edinburgh & the Royal Mile. Where 50 years ago, 8 pubs opened their doors to comedian & amateur dramtics on the fringes of the more high brow Edinburgh International Festival, so a decade ago the Frre fringe grew up as a cheaper alternative to the financial leviathan that the Fringe had become. Here, instead of paying out thousands of pounds, a performer plays for free & passes a bucket around at the end of the performance, with the venue happy with the till receipts from the bar.
In the same fashion, Dave Shand has organised some of the best young acts in Edinburgh, mixed with musicians drawn from all over the world, filling an all-day programme of hourly performances. Its an eclectic mix, from one men acoustic acts to to the full-on soft-porn of a Burlesque show. Here’s some of the highlights which Dave kindly picked out for us;
Midnight – Fri 9th / Fri 16th / Sat 17th / Fri 23rd / Sat 24th