The Big Fringe Review – Part 2

Here is the second part of the Edinburgh Fringe review 2011, containing reviews of The Oxford Gargoyles, The Forget-Me-Nots, Out of the Blue and The Oxford Alternotives.

The Oxford Gargoyles

Rating: 9/10

I had not seen the group before and was unsure what to expect from “Jazz A Cappella”, and considering I am not a fan of jazz, I was pleasantly surprised when I knew a few of the songs. Some of the vocal instrumenting, especially the trumpet, was exceptional. Musically, the Gargoyles are very tight. Their harmonies are sublime and I’m not sure I saw another group that were so musically well drilled. Birdland and Nina Simone’s Feeling Good were particular highlights. However, there were times when the high soprano line grated slightly – I understand that she had a thoroughly impressive range, but outside of a chord (i.e. during her solo riffing) it became slightly pitchy. Nevertheless, the Gargoyles were slick, tight and very professional, and I was very impressed.

Highlight: Feeling Good by Nina Simone

“You won’t see a better a cappella act this year.” ***** BroadwayBaby
“Stylish, witty, charming and slick.” ***** ThreeWeeks

The Forget-Me-Nots

Rating: 10/10

I could not fault these girls. At all. This is why they have full marks from me. These four girls from Edinburgh University formed 18 months ago and since then have built up an impressive repertoire of classic barbershop material, and they deliver it with impeccable blend. This was a free show, and as such was in a rather noisy pub atmosphere, but as soon as the girls began, the atmosphere died down, such was the slickness of their performance. They were dressed in four identical dresses, save for the colour, and were clearly enjoying themselves. Two arrangements really stood out for me – one was a Fleet Foxes song, and the other was Two Kinds of Love from the film ‘Rocky’, which was the only one arranged by a group member. Despite their barbershop roots, when the group stepped out of their comfort zone and did those two, they really began to show their potential. On a side note, the soprano of the group was silly good.

Highlight: Two Kinds of Love from Rocky.

Out of the Blue

Rating: 9/10

The problem with Out of the Blue is their reputation. You go into the show expecting so much, and you can’t help but feel disappointed when you leave. This is not to say that the boys from Oxford do not put on a phenomenal show – quite the opposite. I was impressed that they were not too reliant on old material, and when they were, they used some of their best stuff – Mustang Sally, Don’t You Want Me, Poker Face – probably to appease the masses who saw them on Britain’s Got Talent. Their new stuff was also very good, and they were much much better live than they were on TV, but I did find that I was more impressed by their show last year. Phenomenal, but they never quite seem to live up to expectations.

Highlight: Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett

“Incredible talent.” ***** ThreeWeeks
“Stunning vocals, camp choreography and […] comedy” ***** ScotsGay

The Oxford Alternotives

Rating: 9/10

This was the first time I had seen the Oxford Alternotives, and they were the only group that allowed for the audience to be involved in the song selection, something which I was surprised and impressed by. Most groups have a setlist which they perform to the adoration of the crowd; this group was slightly different. Yes, they had a setlist, of which Elton John’s Your Song was one of the more moving arrangements, but they also had two improvised numbers: the first, a style of music was picked, and the group had to perform their next song in that style, a rather impressive feat for an a cappella group; the second, a member of the audience had to pick one of around ten songs and one of around ten genres (on our night, a jazz version of Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal), which the group then had to perform. To take something as complicated and unpredictable as that and carry it off with such panache was something that from an a cappella perspective I was massively impressed by. It is unfortunate that the rest of their set was only average, but these two ingenious moments really spiced-up the show.

Highlight: the improvised jazz version of Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal

“Beautiful […] impressive” *** BroadwayBaby

Thus ends my coverage of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe! I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the Fringe, including me, and I look forward to hearing about everyone’s progress throughout the year. Stay tuned for features on The Forget-Me-Nots, The Techtonics and The Accidentals!

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