This years Edinburgh Fringe has been more successful than ever for the nation’s a cappella groups, and amid sell-out crowds, men performing in kilts and the dreaded audience participation, I was there to see each and every one of the groups. And to say that I was very impressed is an understatement. Here are mine and some critics’ thoughts on the performances of our groups this year.
In The Pink
Having never seen the In The Pink girls before, and having not heard the best reviews from other people who had seen the show, I was pleasantly surprised by the blend and dynamism that was present in the group, especially in the slower numbers. The highlights of the show were Rose by The Feeling and Your Song by Elton John, the latter of which really gave me goosebumps. Performance is almost as important as musicality in modern a cappella, and the girls were energetic and had good movement on the more upbeat numbers, however in a few songs, I feel the chords could have been broadened slightly to really add volume and “oomph”. Despite this though, I was smiling the whole way through and thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Highlight: Your Song by Elton John
“Vivacious” **** Edinburgh Spotlight
All The King’s Men
Having reached the final of the Voice Festival UK at the first attempt, I was expecting big things from All The King’s Men. And when they were good, they were very good. For a group that hasn’t been going very long, they had some fantastic arrangements and mashups (if a few too many) and some fantastic voices within the group. Yellow by Coldplay in particular was brilliantly done and the lead was superb. Their America Medley and Spice Girls Medley were also highly entertaining and the dance routines to go with them were very funny. However, perhaps due to the new nature of the group, a few of the songs didn’t quite work. Forget You by Cee Lo Green was done with half the group and didn’t quite have a good enough arrangement, and the harmonies on Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah at times sounded off-key. Despite this, however, this was a thoroughly impressive performance from a very new group who undoubtedly have bags of potential.
Highlight: Yellow by Coldplay
“Overwhelming Talent” **** BroadwayBaby
“Sign my bra!” ***** ThreeWeeks
As a student at the University of St Andrews, I have seen the Alleycats perform several times, so I knew what to expect from them – energy, comedy and upbeat numbers. I was not disappointed. Forever by Chris Brown; Dance Wiv Me/Lovestoned/Billie Jean medley; That Don’t Impress Me Much by Shania Twain… all songs that the Alleycats do very well. The key to these songs is that entertainment value often masks the fact that the musicality of the group is not as strong as some of the other groups, a fact which is enhanced when they try the slower numbers. While the group contains a host of very strong soloists, Mumford and Sons’ The Cave and Coldplay’s In My Place didn’t quite work as arrangements (a disappointment really, as they were two of the songs I had not seen the group perform before). The real triumph of the show however was When You Were Young by The Killers – a flawless lead, a great arrangement and superb blend negating the need for distracting choreography, The Alleycats have proven that they can do the slow songs well if they pick the right one. Thoroughly entertaining, the Alleycats will without doubt put a smile on your face.
Highlight: Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer
“Dynamic and energetic” *** BroadwayBaby
“Tightly drilled performance” *** FestMag
The Oxford Belles
I saw the Belles at the start of the festival and at the end, and the difference between the two performances was astonishing. Firstly, I can’t quite understand why they chose to do a full run – a cappella is hard enough on the voice every day for a week, let alone a month, and by the end of the run their numbers had been reduced almost by half. Whether this was due to illness or unavailability I am unsure, but I think they ought to rethink their strategy next year. Despite this, the Belles blend magnificently as a group, and the highlight of the show was without doubt their performance of Run by Snow Patrol, which was possibly the best a cappella song I heard all festival. Some of the chords were just insanely good and I was blown away. Sadly, the rest of the show was not up to that standard. The Belles lack strong soloists and this lets them down when they try to do upbeat numbers, as the soloist’s voice often got overwhelmed by the remainder of the group. Still, they provided a willing crowd with a simple setlist that suited their style down to a tee. Very good, but not outstanding.
Highlight: Run by Snow Patrol
“Very refreshing” **** ThreeWeeks
“Filled the entire space with life” **** BroadwayBaby.
Stay tuned for reviews of The Oxford Gargoyles, The Forget-Me-Nots, The Oxford Alternotives and Out of the Blue in a couple of days.