Nadine Shah |
Kitchen Sink is a dark humor feminist collection that celebrates her mother (who has died since the album was released) while railing against traditional domestic roles. Its performance was mischievously preceded by a playlist of past love and marriage songs. Nadine Shah got married last month (“poor bastard,” she told The Scotsman at the time).
If Shah was in any way intimidated by the size of the festival’s Edinburgh Park Arena, it didn’t show. Supported by her black-clad band of musical brothers, including Neil MacColl (song by Ewan and Peggy Seeger) on guitar and her producer Ben Hillier, she began with Club Cougar’s furious giggles, a call for respect as she went home relied on some of the anachronistic lyrics from the pre-show playlist and was driven by a deep-seated bassline, clacking drums, and a bellicose keyboard chorus.
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Shah’s theatrical alt sounded like a friendlier Siouxsie Sioux, all the better when supported by the punchy performance of Ladies for Babies (Goats for Love) or the spider-like guitar and trumpet of Evil – with its shades of Sioux ‘side project The Creatures – or when he mediates the strutting Buckfast (“since we were in Scotland”).
She is a rock singer with a chanson spirit who often sets her dramatic, soaring war cry to stacked rockabilly rhythms or the powerful and dark guitars of Ukrainian Wine. Holiday Destination’s more conventional driving rock did business, but Shah would happily throw in a curveball hippie croon with an unexpected recorder solo too.
Given this was only the second time these songs were performed live, Shah joked about their use of lyric sheets. But Prayer Mat, a song for her mother, didn’t need to be prompted. It came straight from the soul.
black midi (****) also brought a spirit of mischief, a sense of occasion and a club show intensity to the Edinburgh Park Pavilion. Self-proclaimed “the hardest working band in show business”, these London outfits are a Mothers of Invention of the 21st ‘t – and indeed not – match up but combine uncomfortably in a frenzy of eccentricity.
Founded in 2017, they quickly gained a reputation for free experimentation and wild performance, and garnered a strong cult following for their bloodthirsty, hyper-stimulated mix of rock minimalism, high-pitched patterns, declamatory singing, and restless time signature.
Driven by frontman Geordie Greep’s speed metal riffola, Morgan Simpson’s sprint-to-the-tape drumming, and Kaidi Akinnibi’s sirening saxophone, they’re generally not a band to sit down for, but they are they managed to bridge the social distance with their pure visceral momentum. It was hard to tell where one track ended and another started. Or was it all just an excited loop?
Taking a breather – if necessary – turned the handbrake into an easy-to-hear croon. The babbling John L, who was conducted apparently at double the speed, was perversely contrasted with a lounge interlude on the keyboards. This was music made by a very strange committee that was promoting the ideas of what they might get through next. Forget the crowd pendering concept of the encore. After an hour of noise rock pummeling, they abruptly crashed tools and staggered the crowd.
When black midi are the Marmite, jazz drummers Moses Boyd (****) is the toast of the London crossover scene. As a graduate of the groundbreaking Tomorrow’s Warriors program to nurture future jazz talent, Boyd gained greater recognition when his debut album Dark Matter was nominated for the 2020 Mercury Prize, the latest in a long line of seemingly symbolic jazz nominees to overshadow it the rest of the shortlist is overlooked for the grand prize.
You can’t imagine Boyd getting too disheveled as he breathes life into his set with the subtle sheen of cymbals, gently lapped by the smokiest saxophone, watery keyboard chords, lyrical intervals and a hint of psych-jazz build-up before it his band fell into an effortless groove.
Boyd’s tight but loose fluidity was complemented by Artie Zaitz on guitar, Donovan Haffner on alto saxophone and Renato Paris, who holds down both the bass notes and the keys (“doing two jobs and getting paid for one”) in dialogue with herself even as the deep burp of the electric bass was followed by the deeper drones of the synthesizer. Zaitz performed the first solo of the set, a hypnotizing noodle interlude interrupted by sharp tones and supported by soulful saxophone.
Eventually this seamless suite transitioned into a more funky phase, with piercing runs on the guitar, fast, fleeting beats, and warm electro-funk chords overlaid with melodic saxophone. Despite the demonic red light shining on him from above, Boyd preferred tight precision for his solo over showmanship for a sleek, luxurious stretch.
The screens behind them were at times filled with flickering footage, including images from the popular sitcom Desmond, but the stage art was mostly limited to a dynamic lightshow with Zaitz playing the moody blues under polished red lights before the band the tender, soulful mood expanded. urges a rare crescendo.
Boyd is known for his infusion of club culture and used to standing gigs rather than seated gigs, but he didn’t need to have been shy enough to finally introduce BTB’s elastic groove and sour afrobeat jitter to round out an otherwise sedentary set.