Light on the Shore @ Leith Theatre
As mine hosts of Edinburgh’s premiere multi-arts cabaret shindig, Neu! Reekie! Michael Pedersen and Kevin Williamson are comic a double act to be reckoned with. Tonight’s pre-show screening of the campy 1960s TV take on Batman prior to the arts collective’s second contribution to Edinburgh International Festival’s Light on the Shore strand revealed more than one dynamic duo in the room. Which of the pair is Batman and which Robin, however, is anybody’s guess.
The night opened with a set from Swedish-born, Berlin-dwelling chanteuse Molly Nilsson, whose chicly styled electro-pop is designed for penthouse and pavement. Nilsson was quietly in evidence later on, when, in the audience for The Vaselines performance of Kurt Cobain favourite, Molly’s Lips, she took advantage of her namesake by duly snogging the face off her male companion.
This went un-noticed by the band, whose frontline vocal duo of Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee headed up a five-piece version of the band, who went beyond old-school indie trappings to reveal a campfire jug-band playing prettified country style pop. As with headliners The Pastels, this is The Vaselines at last getting their dues. McKee is particularly taken with having someone else to adjust her microphone stand.
The Pastels these days are an equally classy proposition, with a six-piece line-up featuring flute and trumpet, as they bookend their set with an Arthur Russell style instrumental and a blistering extended take on psych-noise classic Baby Honey.
Before the bands, poet Linton Kwesi Johnson created a pin-drop hush for a righteous and life-affirming set of quiet defiance. Poems such as Sonny’s Lettah and The Great Resistance may be almost four decades old, but as Johnson’s accompanying elucidations confirm, in the current climate, they remain urgent dispatches from the frontline of grassroots black culture and community resistance that enlighten and inspire, even as they’re delivered with a raging calm.
The Herald, August 20th 2018