If you heard a rumour that Anna Meredith was juggling fire while swallowing swords on a unicycle at this year’s Fringe it wouldn’t be a surprise, such is the seeming omnipresence of this talented musical polymath across Edinburgh’s Festival programmes this August.
For one night only, she is to be found at the newly refurbished Leith Theatre as part of the Light on the Shore under the EIF’s umbrella. The venue is stunning and already much improved from its long-awaited rebirth at last year’s Hidden Door festival. A grand stage is perfectly adequate to support the assembled Southbank Sinofia as well as some familiar faces from Meredith’s usual band. Visually impressive to a musician, all dressed in silver and sequins, they are backdropped by an ever changing stellar landscape and other abstract images which only add to the spectacle. Our main star shares front centre with Simon Dobson to conduct the proceedings.
Surrounded by an orchestra from her London birth-town while faced by fans from her Lothian childhood home, Meredith is entitled to feel comfortable. Tonight, though she excuses having not much time to chat “as they have sh*tloads to get through”. And so they have. Some more recent compositions are debuted which Meredith suggests may make it on to a much anticipated second album, if only she weren’t so busy. Debut album Varmints is played in its entirety with Nautilus, Taken and Dowager beautifully augmented by new arrangements to make the most of the assembled orchestra; new lamps for old.
For Light on the Shore, the theatre is more than up to the task with almost anechoic acoustics allowing every last note to resonate through to the audience. While nicely ‘busy’ the hall is not packed, disappointing given the scale of production and surely weeks’ worth of rehearsal that has gone into make tonight so impressive.
Jack Ross (Meredith’s long-term guitarist and collaborator, rather than the Sunderland FC manager) is afforded the freedom to pick out the most ornate riffs and Meredith alternates instruments but seems happiest thumping the tubs assembled around her with gusto. The Duracell Bunny meets the Muppets’ Animal. Playing up to her band’s prog-rock regalia, Meredith announces that she is “Going to put the cape back on now, though I can’t tell you how much I don’t want to I’m hot…in both senses of the word”.
We welcome an encore which begins playfully with a familiar bass hook, prompting murmurings of “what’s that again?”. What else to test those acoustics but an incongruous cover of Metallica’s Enter Sandman which segues seamlessly into the theme tune from The Bill (to end the bill, natch.) The Leith police dismisseth us!
Photo courtesy of Ryan Buchanan.
For more on the Edinburgh International Festival’s Light On the Shore programme click here.