Neu! Reekie! at the St Andrews Church in Leith was a versatile evening mixing poetry, film and music. Although Neu! Reekie! is an established evening, as a newbie to the Reekie! experience I really did not know what to expect and was bemused at arriving to catch the middle section of a popular animated film.
This was followed by a first half of poetry and animation, including Scottish bard Roba Mackenzie and poetry duo the Highflyers. The highlight for me was Daljit Nagra, injecting humour into proceedings with poetry that mixed big topics such as love and freedom with everyday experiences such as running a shop. The second half featured live performances from Denis Johnson and RITU?LS, interspersed was some exciting short animation. Overall, there was a wide range of different cultural snacks to get stuck into.
By weighting the evening so heavily towards poetry and animation at the beginning and reserving all the music for the second half, it felt a bit like two very different shows stuck together. I was with a companion much more interested in animation and music than poetry and it was hard to persuade him that the music was coming when after an hour and half there had been very little sign of it.
When the music did start, I got the feeling audience had been sitting passively (on Church benches specifically designed to make the congregation uncomfortable) for so long, that there was not much energy for the performers to feed off. This was a shame given the dynamic performances from Denis Johnson, a vocalist from Manchester who previously performed with Primal Scream.
Denis’ powerful voice and indie gospel style of singing moved from well-known covers of artist such as The Smiths to original compositions, and she certainly gave it her all despite saying she had sore throat. Rather than performing them straight, she injected a unique soulful style to each cover, showing us her impressive range and versatility. However, as the first musician on, she had a quite a job to stir up a reaction from the audience, which was a shame as this style of performance relies so much on the energy in the room. By the time she got to her Primal Scream classic Don’t Fight It Feel It, by rights there should have people dancing in the aisles.
When RITU?LS came on stage, the audience were a bit more in tune, but the dance floor at the front of the pews remained empty and this is definitely the kind of band that is meant to be danced to. Mixing fast indie drum beats and high energy, they did eventually warm up the chilly church.
Overall, it was an enjoyable evening and there was something of interest for everyone but perhaps if these elements had been spread more evenly throughout the night, the experience would have been more dynamic and felt more the like the wild eclectic mix-up I had been expecting.
Photo courtesy of Kat Gollock.
For more on Neu! Reekie! click here.