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Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
Sunday July 29th 2012
4 stars
In the silence, Ted Milton sits behind a microphone centre-stage and 
blows up a balloon he ties and places at his feet. With a set of 
carefully placed clips, Milton hangs up a piece of white material too 
big to be a handkerchief, too small to be a sheet. His back-drop in 
place, and largely hidden from view, he takes something from a violin 
case, and a naked Barbie doll appears bobbing above the makeshift 
curtain. “Oh, look!” says naked Barbie in Milton's squealy voice as a 
white ping pong ball on a stick appears. “A molecule!” This happens 
several times until Barbie is surrounded by molecules and Milton 
presumably runs out of fingers. A large plastic hand appears a la Terry 
Gilliam's Monty Python work and the word B.O.M.B. is spelt out as 
Milton's foot causes the balloon to explode beneath him.

As an opening gambit for an Edinburgh Jazz Festival gig, it's hardly 
Manhattan Transfer, for which we should all be grateful. As an 
introduction to Milton and his saxophone/guitar/drums power trio's 
Puppeteers of the World Unite! forty-odd year retrospective, it's also 
an insight into Milton's very singular anti-career path, be it as poet, 
puppeteer or post-punk provocateur.

As Milton folds up his hanker-sheet and puts Barbie back in her box, 
guitarist Steve Eagles and drummer Dave Aylward stumble into the show's 
thirty-two year old title track, a circular sideshow stagger given 
increasingly splenetic sheen by Milton alternating between short, 
stabbing bursts of skronky sax and a vocal that lets rip with Barbie's 
voice some more with a warning shot of “Behind you!” As tightly 
rehearsed as they are musically, Eagles and Aylward look over their 
shoulder in response to Milton's refrain.

For almost ninety minutes, Blurt's crisp, bass-free insistence becomes 
as funkily demonic as James Chance or early 1980s Ornette Coleman. 
Mapping out a back-catalogue of shoulda-been absurdist-pop hits 
declaimed with a pukkah sense of drama,  Milton's facial expressions 
contort into something that's part manic desperado, part benign elder 
statesman. Looking for all the world like a comedic approximation of 
Stewart Lee's dad, on miniatures like 'Poppycock' and 'My Mother Was A 
Friend of An Enemy of the People', such extremes meet somewhere in a 
very peculiar middle.

As Milton slow-walks his cohorts off-stage before doing an equally 
deadpan volte face for a four-song encore, Blurt's mix of European 
arts-lab vaudeville and the briskest of blow-outs is a one-off
that's quite possibly the most important booking Edinburgh Jazz 
Festival have ever made.

The List, August 2012



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