Anna Meredith & Southbank Sinfonia @ Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, 11 Aug
Anna Meredith, her band and the Southbank Sinfonia bring an excellent night of music to Edinburgh's Leith Theatre with an unexpected ending we're unlikely to forget in a long time
Anna Meredith’s band congregate to the right of the stage dressed all in silver, Meredith herself donning a thick silver hooded cape which doesn’t last too long into the performance. The Southbank Sinfonia's 32 members cut a fine figure across the rest of the Leith Theatre’s sizable stage with conductor, and David Guetta look-alike, Simon Dobson raised centre-stage donning a bloody well magnificent silver holographic sequin bomber jacket which we’re not jealous of at all.
Adding to the futuristic sounds being generated throughout their set, trippy, space-themed visuals complement the melding of electronic and classical music: cats, dogs, hands, snakes, basketballs, atoms, shoes and jellyfish float through a cosmic twinkling galaxy of stars behind them, because, well, why not?
Played out of chronological order and given an arrangement upgrade courtesy of Meredith’s band, her 2016 SAY Award-winning album Varmints is played in full tonight to glittering effect. Meredith flits between keys/synths, glockenspiel, clarinet and vocals and thrashs out additional drums on tracks like R-Type and Shill; we're even treated to some brand new tracks mid-set from her “amazing unfinished second album.”
Ripping through the set at pace, at one point telling us there’s “no time to chat,” Meredith alludes to the stage being a bit smelly as “that curry was a mistake,” before launching into Dowager, here elevated with the Southbank Sinfonia’s shimmering strings. Meredith is utterly beguiling and later proves there’s still no time to chat when she hurriedly thanks the Edinburgh International Festival and wishes happy birthday to a 12-year-old Isaac in the crowd… when the Leith Theatre crowd try to sing happy birthday they get no further than the first two lines before Meredith hilariously draws our attention back to the fact she’s playing; “no no, this song!” Giggles ripple round the room before everyone is entranced again.
Bubbling electronics fill with every instrument in the room to a chest-tightening crescendo on Shill and the beautiful bending and wobbling synths and strings on Honeyed Words are just two of many highlights tonight, and one of the most joyful moments comes from witnessing Meredith during the penultimate track of the main set (Something Helpful) pogoing and punching the air in absolute euphoria in-between singing. “You’re so lovely and nice, I’ve had such a nice time… this is the last track, or is it?" she says cheekily before a rip-roaring rendition of The Vapours ends out the main set with fizzing guitars, psychedelic electronics and Tom Kelly's buoyant tuba which brings the whole room to life. A fret-heavy ending from Jack Ross on guitar whips the theatre into a frenzy and the track culminates in a cacophony of noise for an incredibly adoring and enthusiastic crowd.
The band step forward, arms locked behind backs in a row and bow a few times before getting ready to play us one more song; “I’m gonna put my cape back on…. I can’t tell you how much I don’t want to,” Meredith laughs before inviting us all to Birmingham to see them do it all again in October. The intro to 1950s pop song Mr. Sandman is played on glockenspiel before Meredith adopts her metal persona – “MERADEATH” – opting to close out the night on an unexpectedly outrageous and nothing short of excellent cover of Metallica’s Enter Sandman.
Hood up, Meredith looks boxing match ready and before we know it she’s doing her best James Hetfield impersonation and completely nails the vocal much to the shock of everyone around us. Meredith, her band and the Southbank Sinfonia are having the best time ever, it's impossible to keep still. Just when we think it can't get any better, during a mostly instrumental section of the song they seamlessly start playing the theme song from The Bill before coming back to Enter Sandman's electrifying ending, with the entirety of the Leith Theatre on its feet in rapturous applause for the end of a gig we’re unlikely to forget for a long time.