Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: The Loveboat Big Band Summer Love-In at Summerhall (Venue 26), reviewed by Sue Wilson
It’s unlikely that the founding fathers of the former Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (now Summerhall) ever envisaged their lofty Dissection Room hosting a burlesque bevy of aerialist dancers, costumed as bathing beauties and strutting their stuff mid-air, set off by superbly dramatic lighting, and accompanied by an 11-piece all-star swing band.
In fact, though, it’s the specific capabilities of this very room – particularly its multiple hoist points, originally installed for lifting dead horses and the like – that helped foster the core collaboration within this sensational night’s entertainment, between your hosts The Loveboat Big Band and Scottish aerialist companies All or Nothing and The Miss.Fit Sisters.
The Loveboat crew are a long-time and much-loved Edinburgh institution, dating right back to the original Bongo Club Cabaret. Their Fringe productions, previously at The Famous Spiegeltent and the Queen’s Hall, are a firmly established crowd-puller, with many among said crowds delighting in dressing up for the occasion, to match the shows’ vintage-style glamour and sophistication. As the name suggests, the overall shtick is that of a golden-age cruise liner, with the musicians decked out in naval uniform, belting out a maritime-themed, lavishly-arranged mix of period classics and craftily customised pop covers.
This year’s Love-In comprises four Friday-night performances, all featuring the aerialists plus a different special guest each week, the first being top local vocal trio The Bevvy Sisters, in their thrillingly souped-up new collaboration with DJ Dolphin Boy. Still to come are jazz icon Fionna Duncan, Aussie musical funsters Flap! and alt-classical supremos Mr McFall’s Chamber.
This boat is bound for glory,” declares an already electrifying number early in the set – after we’ve been paraded in from Summerhall’s courtyard by the five-man brass section – aptly co-opting the US gospel standard This Train. Other especial standouts among a filler-free set include a wonderfully smouldering, bluesy version of Little Feat’s Sailin’ Shoes and an irresistibly inviting Seaside Rendezvous, courtesy of Queen.
The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams Are Made of This features, brilliantly reinvented thanks to its line about travelling the seven seas, while absolutely stunning treatments of the Bee Gees’ How Deep Is Your Love? and Donna Summer’s I Feel Love – led as throughout the night by Heather Macleod’s awesomely commanding, sensuous vocals – need no additional pretext for their presence.
Beautifully choreographed and immaculately executed, the aerialist elements are also silkily integrated with the music, adding a magical visual dimension to the proceedings, whose generous four-hour duration – rounded off by a hand-picked selection of DJs – simply flies by: truly the voyage of a lifetime, or at least of this year’s Fringe.
MORE INFO: The Loveboat Big Band Summer Love-In at Summerhall (Venue 26), 16 & 23 August only.
Originally published in The Scotsman