Three years ago at Edinburgh International Festival, Anna Meredith performed a specially expanded version of her debut album Varmints, which included a 30-piece Southbank Sinfonia orchestra. An album of great acclaim, Varmints won Scottish Album of the Year in 2016, so this performance as far as EIF standards go, was going to be difficult to come back after. Meredith also composed the music for the International Festival’s 2018 opening spectacle Five Telegrams, where thousands gathered to watch rainbow visuals projected onto the façade of the Usher Hall.?I mean, how do you come back from that?! But she did, she has come back after a formidable eighteen months of being stagnant on the live scene. An entirely different and fun set of tracks for Friday night at Edinburgh Park, this gig proved to be supercharged with a concoction of energy and a desire to let loose.
Since winning the 2016 Scottish Album of the Year award for her debut Varmints, Meredith’s has since released FIBS, which ?is a bright crossover of pop and orchestral tropes, as well as her diverting Bumps Per Minute, her music for dodgems. Featuring a wide range of instruments, synthesisers, electric guitar, cello, timpani, tuba and wooden xylophone, Meredith composes, sings and is a multi-instrumentalist with bags of energy that expectedly travels out into the audience, despite our socially-distanced seated affair.
Tonight was no different. A set entirely mixed with tracks from her plethora of LPs, her fans and aficionados were in for a treat. And well, there was an anticipation regarding that live tradition she holds of doing a cover at the end of a set. And with her and band attired in a monochrome palette of stripes, there was a lovely sense of novelty expected of the evening’s proceedings.
Calion, which was from FIBS was the first to catch my attention, a track that would sit nicely next to an Errors on a playlist. Synth-based and moving in different tempos and rhythms, Calion got the crowd charged; as soon as you start bopping along then you are thrown in another direction. Another was an entirely instrumental track led by the Maddie Cutter on cello; deliciously delicate and emotive, moonmoons is a gem to also be found on FIBS. And then there were the obvious ones like Nautilus from Varmints, an intoxicating track that has allowed me to discover feelings I had about the tuba that I didn’t even realise were possible. Ribbons was another I’d not expected to be on the set list for a Friday night but one that was a reminder of Meredith’s range of talents, moving delicately throughout her range but on the whole keeping the notes held high.
However, that cover at the end, there was little to say but pure genius. Pulling together tracks like Daniel Bedingfield’s Gotta Get Thru This, ABBA’s Lay All Your Love On Me as well as Call Me Maybe it was a daft popstacular end to the EIF gig. Now that live gigs are permitted again, it was great to see the band have as much fun on stage as we did being in the depths of Edinburgh Park.
Photo courtesy of Jess Shurte
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