Fringe Music & Cabaret

Nina Simone: Soul Sessions

Assembly Checkpoint

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THREE STARS

Fallen Angel Show

Spotlites

THREE STARS

Hackney Colliery Band

Underbelly George Square

THREE STARS

Rob Adams

There are two Apphia Campbells at work in the Florida-born singer-actress’s Nina Simone: Soul Sessions. Campbell emerges firstly wearing a red dress and a wig, playing the role – apparently from her own experience – of a student who goes off to China to teach drama knowing only two words of Mandarin. At some point Nina Simone’s music has entered her life and the jazz icon becomes Campbell’s inspiration.

Unfortunately, she rather overplays her hand here and with her keyboardist adding some cheesy programmed strings and drums, she comes perilously close to cruise liner cabaret tribute act as she sings Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Mood Indigo and To Love Somebody with, as it turns out, a fraction of the character she can bring to Simone’s work.

Then … transformation: the dress and the wig come off and Campbell, in figure-hugging garb, all but calls up Simone’s spirit. It’s a shame she takes so long and it might all be a ruse to get you along to her other Simone show, Black is the Color of My Voice, which she mentions a time or two, but her delivery of My Baby Just Cares for Me and the Billy Taylor song that Simone made her own, I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free knocks spots off what comes earlier.

Runs until August 30.

The Fallen Angel Show is the first full-length production from Vesper Walk, a band led by piano-duetting singers Catherine Cowan and Lisa-Marie Baker and featuring three more singers, cellist, bass guitarist-vocalist, and percussionist/sound sample operator. The show itself is a twenty-first century folk tale in which the heroine, Sarah’s husband disappears on some mysterious voyage, leaving her a piano, which she turns into her passport to stardom.

It’s a bit twee at times but also quite charming with strong, original musical ideas, laced with a smidgeon of Kate Bush, some lovely harmonies and a storyline that challenges the star-making system and show business and society’s obsessions with youth and beauty. Working the songs in with a recorded narrative, slides and as much movement as the confined studio theatre space allows makes for a nicely paced and ultimately enjoyable presentation.

Runs until August 31.

Hackney Colliery Band’s residency in the Udderbelly didn’t get off to the best of starts with a fifty-minute delay as the midnight temperature dropped leading to slow hand-clapping among an otherwise remarkably patient queue. Once everyone was inside the nonet wasted no time in getting the party started and although they weren’t able to put on the show they’d intended due to sound equipment problems, they certainly gave it everything they had with precise, stabbing frontline arrangements from two trombones, two trumpets and alto and tenor saxophones and an energetic sousaphone and drums rhythm team.

Familiar pieces from those stalwarts of brass band composition, Kanye West, Goldie and Adele, whose Rolling in the Deep has possibly never sounded so infectious, slotted in alongside the band’s own parping, searching and dancing contributions to the massed horns repertoire as the audience boogied with abandon on three sides of the auditorium.

It’s essentially a team effort but Mike Lesirge’s fluent alto soloing and Tom Richards’ concisely structured tenor feature particularly impressed, as did Luke Christie’s firecracker-like snare drumming. They hope to have everything working for their final show tonight and I wouldn’t bet against a good number of those who were at this one coming back for more.