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Lilly Allen, Soul II Soul, Young Fathers - Concert in the Gardens

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
Four stars

Lily Allen wasn't the obvious choice to headline this year's
Edinburgh's Hogmanay, even with her third album, Sheezuz, coming after
five years out of the musical loop. From the moment this most
gloriously contrary pop star bounds onstage sporting a sparkly hooded
baseball top with a giant A on the back on a stage set of oversize
illuminated babies bottles against a pink and purple backdrop, however,
Edinburgh is hers.

Prior to that, on the Waverley Stage, Scottish Album of the Year and
Mercury Music Prize winners Young Fathers kick the night off with a
manifesto-like cacophony of synthesised sirens, projected slogans and
martial drums that ushers in a darkly intense set of righteously angry
twenty-first century hip hop.

Joined by chanteuse and kindred spirit Law, the band's frontline trio
of Kayus Bankole, 'G' Hastings and Alloysious Massaquoi let loose a
fitting antidote to the City's archaic rules on live music provision
which they've spoken out against. Only when an abrupt halt is called
after Massaquoi spots his family in the audience apparently being asked
to move do things turn awkward. Young Fathers take the city by storm,
anyway.

At the Ross Bandstand, things are infinitely mellower as Soul II Soul
remind audiences where the roots of British hip hop come from in a
manner so chilled you almost want to call out for a cappuccino. With
twelve people onstage, the core duo of Jazzie B and Caron Wheeler drum
up a well-choreographed feelgood vibe that goes beyond 1990s nostalgia.

Allen is the final link in the chain of multi-cultural Britain's
musical joys, as she applies her estuarised slang queen couplets to
ska, calypso, cajun and African highlife, so rich is her pick and mix
tray of musical confections.

Allen's growing up in public is plain, be it on the candid country
hoe-down of  It's Not Fair, several homages to her husband or else a
paean to her ex's undersize manhood.

After the bells comes Smile, which also makes for the first well-placed
cuss of the year. Finally, Allen gets a young man called Kevin up from
the audience to sing a duet on what might be the most joyously sweary
pop song ever. Both Kevin and the thousands of revellers before him
rise to the occasion, seeing in the new year with a four-letter
singalong of devil-may-care joy.

The Herald, January 2nd 2015




ends

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