Fringe Diary 2012: Part 3 – The Oxford Gargoyles and All the King’s Men

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is over half way through now, and some of our groups have now finished their runs, having performed to huge, receptive audiences on both the Royal Mile and within their theatre auditoriums. We managed to catch London based All the King’s Men before they jet off to Asia, as well as Fringe veterans The Oxford Gargoyles. Our thoughts are below.

The Oxford Gargoyles
Rating: 9/10

Musical Director Euan Campbell has managed to more than continue the slick and stylish sound that the Oxford Gargoyles produce, providing an almost faultless display of musical brilliance that was almost too good to believe, considering it was only their first night.
They instantly impressed with a beautiful close harmony opening to It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing), which built into a lively opener, with the high soprano line pitched perfectly throughout. The duet in Fields of Gold was simply staggering, and the key changes blended perfectly into one another, while never pushing the soloists out of their vocal comfort zones. Becca Sharp in particular stood out not only in this song, but in several other solo performances dotted around the set – she’s a real gem. One such solo was on Summer Time, which was delivered by the entire group with the utmost professionalism – it became very difficult to believe that these guys were students at times.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow, while a very well-known and extensively covered song, was possibly one of the highlights, with a mind-blowing solo and some gorgeous echoed harmonies. The set did feel a little female-solo dominated, but this was rectified to a certain extent towards the end of the set with Mr. Bojangles and Euan Campbell himself taking the lead in the Dancing in the Moonlight mash-up – he has such a unique tone to his voice, it’s very engaging to listen to. The group vocals did seem to get a little tired towards the end, but otherwise this was an unbelievably slick, suave and smooth show.
For someone who doesn’t like jazz, this is probably one of the best shows I saw in the entire festival. I may have been converted.

All the King’s Men
Rating: 9/10

There’s a reason these boys are the best university group in the UK. Henry Southern, the founder and long-term Musical Director, has created an a cappella beast in three short years that have gone from little known KCL group to third-best collegiate group in the world. And the set they presented to us at the Edinburgh Fringe was nothing short of exceptional.
The highlights of their set tend to be their well-rehearsed Voice Festival numbers, and they opened with Born This Way/Edge of Glory that had simple, effective and slick choreography, and I really liked the way they used the “ga” syllable as a backing sound, and the silky solo at the start of Edge of Glory was complemented with some incredible close harmony blend. This was further emphasised by Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, which contained some gorgeous bell tones that gave me goosebumps, and the real triumph that was Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek, which is potentially the best close harmony arrangement I have ever heard. Their older arrangement of Coldplay’s Yellow and Snow Patrol’s Run was just as impressive as last year.
The boys of course are not just about the slower songs, and impress with their energy on the more upbeat numbers, most of which are mash-ups. While the boys seem to excel in arranging these mash-ups, some of them seem to be aimed more towards being crowd-pleasers than being musically intricate. It’s Reigning Men, for example, has some hilarious lyric changes, but the second half of the mash-up, Let Me Entertain You is more about getting the audience to clap along than impressing them with precise musical nuances. The blend did also seem to lack at the very top and the very bottom of the chords in a couple of the numbers, and I feel the boys are lacking a real big-ass tenor to belt out some of the most bawdy tunes. But these are churlish niggles on an otherwise spotless setlist.
Their closing number, Spiderman was a refreshing change and consisted of several different genres of music, and was a thoroughly impressive and memorable way to end the set. A real triumph from the boys from London.

The Oxford Gargoyles are selling their brand new studio album, Up The Scale, outside their show, while All the King’s Men’s newest album, a five-track live EP, is also available for purchase.


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