Tonight was a triumph, albeit with a slightly odd running order making for a disjointed start.
The billing of Gwenno, Dream Wife and Nadine Shah together was an excellent mix of the new and the maturing. Only the placing of Stina Tweeddale (one half of Honeyblood) as the second act rather cooled things off after the initial fine start.
Gwenno and band were on sharp at 19:00 and turned in a great performance, full of anecdotal chat, very well received renditions of tracks from current album Le Kov (including the audience chanting along in Cornish about cheese) and earlier material. Clearly pleased to be part of the festival she was full of good cheer and thoroughly at home in the excellent venue.
Change over times were decent tonight, with some contemporary dance going on on the auditorium floor at a couple of points just to divert the attention. Doubtless this would have proved difficult if the event had sold out. Stina Tweeddale was therefore not too long in coming onstage to do her best with solo versions of some Honeyblood tracks. To her credit she at least kept it electric. Shorn of their drum parts, however, the tunes too often didn't do the business (unlike when seen here). As the opening act or in a more intimate setting she'd have been fine but, whether to meet a promise to appear or whatever, this wasn't the most inspired programming.
Thankfully the threads of excitement remaining from Gwenno & gang's performance were easily grasped & pulled tight by Dream Wife. Currently on the crest of a wave the quartet were brimming with energy and all too happy to unleash it upon the appreciative crowd. Obviously relishing the space afforded by the theatre's stage singer Rakel Mjöll in particular bounded about its entirety, striking balletic poses now and again when returning briefly to a standstill. Less controversial than sometimes reported when headlining they stuck pretty much to entertaining, with just a brief attempt to conflate the social mores of not quite 100 years ago as reflected backstage at the theatre (changing rooms denoted by gender as well as place in the company - instrumentalist, singer etc.) with modern gender bias. Depends I suppose who you're happy disrobing in front of at work although I doubt it's a free-for-all at the Royal Lyceum or elsewhere.
I last saw Nadine Shah in 2015 (here) but she seems to have undergone something of a change, into a rather more vampish stage presence (although in no way camp or pretentious). Being fed up singing "about my crap lovelife" maybe has something to do with that. Current album Holiday Destination is though (probably) her most political to date so all black attire, Doc Martins and a serious bob make more sense. Coupled with her easy engagement with the audience and clear pleasure at finally playing Edinburgh she and the band could do no wrong, evening managing to mention the negative aspects of nationalism without getting heckled before later eliciting a resounding cheer for deriding Brexit. All in this was the performance we deserved after the mostly great work put in to prime us for it and it capped off a great introduction for those of us who'd not previously partaken of the festival's musical programme.
Special mention should be given here to the lighting onstage at Leith Theatre. A lot of thought has clearly gone in to the displays used during the performances and that, coupled with the very well mixed and balanced sound (helped along by the great acoustics) contributed a lot to the overall show. Further evidence that there could have been some great shows staged here in the 30 years of it's ludicrous period of disuse but a very positive pointer to what can be achieved from now on. Well done to all concerned.
Hidden Door continues until June 03 - further details here.
Further photographs from this part of it can be found here.
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