Light on the Shore @ Leith Theatre
“No,” says Anna Meredith pointing at her keyboard console as she quickly stymies an impromptu chorus of Happy Birthday from a section of the audience after making a dedication to a twelve-year-old called Isaac. “This tune.” Meredith’s friendly but firm admonishment sums up an irrepressible effervescence that saw her 2016 album, Varmints, scoop that year’s Scottish Album of the Year.
Meredith has already graced the magnificent Leith Theatre stage as part of the 2017 grassroots-based Hidden Door Festival. This made her a logical choice for Edinburgh International Festival’s contemporary music season, Light on the Shore, which opened at the same venue last week with headline sets by King Creosote and Django Django. With Meredith having scored EIF’s epic opening event, Five Telegrams, hearing Varmints played in full with her four-piece band accompanied by the full orchestra of the Southbank Sinfonia is equally as thrilling.
Meredith’s guitar, tuba and cello frontline sport sparkly sci-fi silver apparel poached from early Roxy Music and Sun Ra’s Arkestra. With a video backdrop of cosmic constellations and disembodied animal heads floating in space, the music’s Reichian repetition married to martial chorales is as euphoric as it is insistent. Much of the set goes at a whip-crack gallop, with two new tracks including a delicate, nursery rhyme style ditty that recalls the naive pastoralism of Virginia Astley. Meredith fist pumps the air frequently. And so she should. This is contemporary classicism designed for having it large.
Clearly having a ball and remaining playful to the last, Meredith puts her silver cape back on and her hood up for a thundering cover of Metallica’s metal behemoth, Enter Sandman Incorporating the themes to The Bill and The Sweeney, as with everything that went before, it’s a blast.
The Herald, August 14th 2018