The Fringe is heading into its final week, and the a cappella scene is slowly dying down, with groups nearing the end of their runs, if they haven’t finished already. We managed to catch the two groups from the University of St Andrews, The Accidentals, who were in their debut Fringe run, and the more established Fringe act The Alleycats. Our thoughts are below.
(Carys Evans & John Lau)
Before seeing The Alleycats, we had heard a lot about what to expect – lots of sass, funk, and great dance moves. We were not disappointed, and found that indeed they had a lot more to offer, with variety being one of their main strengths. Ranging from heartwrenchingly emotional numbers to fiery pop tunes to much more traditionally soulful vocals, this set ticked all the boxes.
If anything, though, the set contains a few too many slow numbers, with two being placed back to back at one point. Perhaps the addition of some form of simple choreography for these songs could help to distinguish them. That being said, two of the highlights of the night were indeed slow songs, with Steph Bown’s emotionally charged rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide showing incredible range and control with her beautiful runs, and Heather Robertson’s powerful alto for David Guetta’s Titanium was easily the best song of the night, with Cammy Dobbie’s consistently brilliant beatboxing complementing the arrangement perfectly.
Although these slower numbers stood out, with impeccable blend and of course fantastic solos, including Garrett Turner’s pitch perfect solo on Ray Lamontagne’s You Are The Best Thing, the upbeat numbers were equally impressive with incredible energy levels and some of the best choreography I have seen an a cappella group do, courtesy of Phil de Winter Shaw. In particular the mash-up of Call My Name and Say My Name showed that these guys have some serious moves. Throughout the set, by looking around the group, every single member was engaging with the audience and having a good time – so although the intense choreography meant that the upbeat numbers were not quite as musically tight, the entire set was entertaining and professionally executed, with some great touches of humour added in Britney Spears’ Toxic.
Credit must also go to Musical Director Brendan Macdonald, who has put together several arrangements that are arguably better than the originals. One particular highlight was their cover of Save The World by Swedish House Mafia, which was tackled with a beautiful duet from Messrs Macdonald and Shaw, while Ayanna Coleman belted out Aretha Franklin’s Respect with verve, pizzazz and a whole lotta soul. All in all, a fantastic show well worth going to see for their sheer energy and some of the best soloists at the Fringe, and even some bonus audience participation in the final number.
The Accidentals have something that other all-female groups don’t: balls. Not literally, you understand, but these girls bring a kind of attitude and ferocity that some of the other girl groups seem to be afraid of. This is in no part down to their set, which is a mix of covers of powerful female vocalists and hip hop divas.
The Accidentals keep things very fresh by cramming their set with several short arrangements, and it works, not only in maintaining the audience’s attention, but also ensuring the applause comes thick and fast. The girls are very lucky to have an exceptional beatboxer in the form of Musical Director Ellie Mason, who they will miss greatly when she goes on her year out in September, as she also provides entertain in her silky alto solos and her quite sensational, if a little crazy, rap interludes. Some of the upbeat, attitude-filled highlights include Tinchy Stryder’s Number 1, Busted’s Year 3000 combined with Nelly’s Ride With Me and Jason DeRulo’s Ridin’ Solo and their fierce Destiny’s Child Medley, which opened the gig and set the tone for things to come.
The girls impressed on some of their slower numbers too, especially the award-winning The Voice Within, with Grace Hardy’s pure, angelic soprano contrasting superbly with Gemma O’Brien’s smooth alto on probably the best number of the night. The girls provide powerful solos in abundance, with Anna McDonald rocking out on Rollin’ In The Deep and the perhaps underused Catriona Till taking the lead on TaTu’s All The Things She Said, providing a softer perspective on the at times grating original. The girls also provide humour with their choice lyric changes, occasional props and gangsta dance moves.
That said, there are things that need work. Only have eight members does have its drawbacks, and the backing sound does occasionally get a little lost, especially if there are two soloists. Some of the arrangements are quite simplistic too, and at times it feels like in order to avoid stagnation, the girls merge into another song, rather than attempting to make the existing arrangement a touch more complex and interesting. The girls clearly know how to fit two songs together, but I’d like to see them attempt more straight numbers.
All in all, this was a very impressive Fringe debut from the girls, who are feisty, fierce and brimming with attitude. It’s clear why they won the award for Outstanding Soloist at the St Andrews Regional back in March, because the whole group can hold their own in the lead role. It’s too late to catch them this year, but hopefully they’ll be back.
The Alleycats’ brand new album, We’re Not Kitten, can be purchased every evening at the end of their concert.