Reviews & features: Music

753 reviews

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The Soil

20 Aug 20134 stars

Spiritual and uplifting a cappella songs from South African trio

'We usually sing these songs until the sun comes up', Buhle Mda, the lady of Kasi Soul trio The Soil, tells us, bemoaning the lack of time afforded by an hour-long slot. At this point their boundless spirit and musical synergy render such an idea…

God versus The Mind Reader  

27 Aug 20133 stars

Performer Mark Cairns questions the human need to rely on misplaced theories for life's answers

We'll start with this: God versus The Mind Reader isn’t what we’d call cabaret, so its categorisation in the Fringe programme might throw you. That’s not to say it’s not an entertaining fifty minutes, just that’s its more a theological monologue with…

Last One Out

23 Aug 20134 stars

A non-traditional opera featuring text from Johnny McKnight and music from Gareth Williams

Last One Out is hardly an opera in the traditional sense – it’s more of a poignant, highly evocative mystery tale that happens to be sung. In any case, much of its music comes from an onstage radio – in the form of composer Gareth Williams’ masterful…

Adam Page

21 Aug 20133 stars

Multi-instrumental comedy from the hirsute, high-spirited Aussie

Adam Page has an almighty beard and he’s not afraid to use it. The high-spirited Australian’s show starts with a cacophonous demonstration of loop pedals and a request that the house lights go down because people – apparently – make him nervous. If…

Ensemble MusikFabrik: A Tribute to Frank Zappa - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 28 August 2013

29 Aug 20135 stars

Earthy and soaring concert of outrageously good musicianship to nourish the adventurous concertgoer

It takes a certain effort of imagination to accept that the man who wrote a song called 'Why Does It Hurt While I Pee?' was the greatest American composer of his time, but Ensemble MusikFabrik's A Tribute to Frank Zappa, played with the precision of…

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The Horne Section

27 Aug 20132 stars

Disappointing off night for the usually on-form Horne and his comedy-music hybrid

At one point early in tonight’s show, special guest James Walmsley (formerly of muso-comedy group Dead Cat Bounce) declares that ‘this hasn’t been rehearsed’. Unfortunately, this is more than obvious. Although there’s a certain sense of tightness…

Lillian Boutté - Barefootin’

27 Aug 20134 stars

A warm, vivacious show from the dainty American jazz dame

Lillian Boutté is in the middle of rip-roaring title track 'Barefootin’' when she clocks me dancing in my chair. Thirty seconds later I’ve been cajoled – with a few others – onto her tiny stage and I can only attribute the lack of dancers generally to…

Dido and Aeneas/Bluebeard’s Castle - Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 24 Aug 2013

27 Aug 20134 stars

Oper Frankfurt present a contrasting programme of warm, doomed love and psychological nightmare

In combining Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Oper Frankfurt have created a deeply powerful theatrical and musical experience for their audiences. Both productions are provocative but in quite different ways. While Barrie…

The 27 Club

23 Aug 20131 star

Now That’s What I Call Tragic Dead People

When you decide to base your show around a tragic procession of musicians who have died aged 27, you are giving yourself some pretty big boots to fill. Jack Lukeman, an Irish fellow with last century’s facial hair and partial green nail varnish, has not…

Forest Boy

23 Aug 20133 stars

A slightly overplayed take on a Dutch boy's story of survival in the wild

Suitably set in the quaint Bosco tent, Forest Boy is a new musical based on the events that gripped Europe in 2011 when Robin ‘Ray’ van Helsum, a young Dutch boy, claimed he had been living in a forest in Germany for five years. Dubbed as a story of…

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Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, Wed 7 Aug 2013

23 Aug 20134 stars

A show of incredible vocals and vivacious energy from the ‘First Lady of Motown Soul’

Imagine one giant ballroom, rainbow lighting, dry ice and a giant disco ball – it's a fitting setting for, as her personal compère puts it, the ‘First Lady of Motown Soul’. Detroit’s Martha Reeves looked every inch the part in purple sequins, tambourine…

Briefs: The Second Coming

21 Aug 20133 stars

Aerial trickery, vaudeville, smuttiness and muscles combine for a brilliant bonkers show

Elaborate dick pouches, man-dogs and defecation are just some of the high – and low – lights of a Briefs show, as occasionally brilliant as it is totally bonkers. A fabulous Priscilla, Queen of the Desert-inspired opening sets the tone for an all-male…

Five reasons to love Frank Zappa

21 Aug 2013

The maverick musician is the subject of a tribute by Ensemble musikFabrik at the EIF 2013

1. He was funny Most popular music isn’t funny. Even some of the best wallows in self-pity or angst. Zappa didn’t like wallowing. He wanted to stimulate people, so he makes you laugh. ‘Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?’, ‘Be In My Video’ and ‘Bobby…

Interview: Wellington Ukulele Orchestra on how they do Edinburgh

21 Aug 2013

The Orchestra's Bek Coogan and Gemma Gracewood provide a performer's guide to seeing the city

Can you sum up your show in five words? Galactic. Joyful. Orgasmic. Family-friendly. For anyone still on the fence, what’s a surefire selling point? There is no stand-up comedy in our show, although we do play standing up. What part of the…

Leo Condie Sings Brel and Brecht

21 Aug 20135 stars

A showstopping Brel tribute from the Low Miffs frontman

The basement of a former church in Orwell Terrace is an airless, charmless box. Within it Leo Condie, former frontman of the Low Miffs, performs songs by Jacques Brel (with one Brecht and one Pet Shop Boys thrown in for the crazy hell of it) with so…

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Profile: Bang on a Can All-Stars perform Steve Reich work at EIF 2013

21 Aug 2013

The contemporary music collective count Steve Reich and Ryuichi Sakamoto among their collaborators

Who are they? Bang on a Can are a music collective based in Brooklyn. It was set up 26 years ago by three composers who were, and still are, dedicated to championing experimental classical music. Their vision was to create an international community of…

Thomas Bloch set for glass harmonica concert at 2013 Edinburgh International Festival

21 Aug 2013

Rare instruments specialist teams up with Scotland's Hebrides Ensemble

‘It looks like a horizontal kebab. But instead of meat, you have crystal glass bowls.’ It’s an odd description for a musical instrument, and what Thomas Bloch is describing is admittedly one of the world’s strangest: the glass harmonica. If a…

The Tiger Lillies

21 Aug 20134 stars

The 'Brechtian punk cabaret' godfathers show no signs of slowing or losing their wild creative edge

Despite the exploding popularity of cabaret at the Fringe (and beyond), this London trio remains the high watermark below which all others will inevitably sink and drown. Now in their 14th year, and widely considered as godfathers of the genre known as…

Je ne sais quoi

20 Aug 20133 stars

A music show by Nathalie Joly

In homing in on French cabaret singer Yvette Guilbert and her relationship with Sigmund Freud, Nathalie Joly has hit on a combination that is both informative and entertaining. Remarkably, the friendship between the pair was a lifelong one of fifty…

The Loveboat Big Band Summer Love-In

20 Aug 20134 stars

Many shows promise riotous musical fun, this one delivers it

An 11-piece brass band in sailor suits, a glittering mermaid twirling seductively from a ceiling hung hoop and Australian musical troupe Flap! making an exuberant cameo: welcome to the sights and sounds of The Loveboat Big Band’s Fringe voyage.

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The Rubberbandits

16 Aug 20132 stars

Difficult transition from Youtube to stage for the Irish rapping duo

Irish comedy rappers The Rubberbandits are a Youtube phenomenon, their song “Horse Outside” has been seen over 10million times. So how do you go about translating internet notoriety into a full festival set? Not one would argue by playing all your best…

FOUND and Young Fathers to appear at Art Late North and South

14 Aug 2013

Evening programme of performance and tours held in association with The List

The thread between art and music has always held strong amidst Scotland’s art school culture, and it seems to be booming within the context of Edinburgh Art Festival as well. A fixture of the programme for some years now, its expansion to two events…

Vic Galloway presents Songs in the key of Fife

14 Aug 2013

TV & radio presenter shines spotlight on the Kingdom

Over the last couple of decades a musical story has been brewing in the East Neuk (literally, the ‘east corner’) of Fife, just the opposite side of the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh, and broadcaster Vic Galloway is the man to finally tell it. Partly…

Mitsuko Uchida - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 13 Aug 2013

14 Aug 20134 stars

The celebrated pianist performs Bach, Schoenberg and Schumann at the EIF

It doesn't get any more temple-of-high-culture than Mitsuko Uchida at the Usher Hall during the EIF, and everything suggested that tonight was going to obey the wacky rituals of the contemporary classical concert. The Usher Hall itself seemed to have…

Arthur Smith

13 Aug 20134 stars

A musical tribute to Leonard Cohen and tightly-scripted delight of a show

Around about ten years ago Leonard Cohen was returning to the spotlight from monastic seclusion in order to boost his plundered retirement fund. At the same time, curmudgeonly comedian Arthur Smith was paying homage to the melancholic gloom peddler with…