Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox, Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, Transformer reviewed by The Scotsman’s Fiona Shepherd.
Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox
Lennon: Through a Glass Onion
Not all musical tributes are soundalookylikey affairs. Fans of Lennox, Lennon and Lou Reed are all well-served this Fringe by shows seeking to celebrate their respective legacies, while wrestling, some more playfully than others, with their psyches.
Michael Griffiths makes no pretence of inhabiting the porcelain skin of Annie Lennox, though he does address the audience in her guise to offer snapshots from her life and career. He has previous with this sort of affectionate tribute, having performed the songs of Madonna at former Fringes. The Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox set-up is simple – Griffiths at his keyboard, interpreting songs from the Lennox catalogue in a mostly cabaret style, sometimes Vegas, sometimes vaudeville, sometimes with a touch of Bublé (bad) or Marc Almond (good). There is a certain preciousness to the spoken word segments but Griffiths is impish at the keyboard, throwing in cheeky references to other Eurythmics riffs and demonstrating a sincere love of the material. There is little fresh perspective to be found in these good-natured singalongs, although the eloquent lyrics of Love is a Stranger could have emerged from the golden era of Tin Pan Alley.
Australian singer/songwriter John R Waters takes a stab at a John Lennon impersonation as frontman of Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, though he often veers perilously close to Paul O’Grady instead. Naturally, there is a wealth of musical and biographical material to present and Waters and accompanist Stewart D’Arrietta (a veteran of his own Tom Waits tribute show), succeed in covering the salient points – the death of Lennon’s mother, the rise and demise of The Beatles, his relationship with Yoko Ono and his assassination – in just over an hour, though some songs appear truncated as they are threaded through the narrative before the inevitable finale of Imagine.
Transformer comes closest to capturing the spirit of its subject and his milieu. Drag artist Johnny Woo dons the leather jacket, shades and cropped black wig to play that redoubtable reprobate Lou Reed. He is joined by a rocking ragtag band of queens and casualties to rip through Reed’s best loved album, Transformer, with the appropriately-faded glamour of the Voodoo Rooms standing in for Max’s Kansas City, the New York dive where the famous freaks converged in the ‘70s.
The playing and execution is as tight but loose as you could wish for, while Woo as Lou introduces the counter cultural characters. Valerie Solanas pops up, occasioning a neat Velvet Underground visual gag, Warhol superstar Candy Darling is positively revelatory (in more ways than one), and the music is a blast – the kind of low-slung rock’n’roll reboot you have to stand up for.
- Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox, Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3) until 31 August / listings
- Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, Assembly Hall (Venue 35) until 28 August / listings
- Transformer,Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68a) until 16 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 13 August 2015
Edinburgh Festivals 2015: complete coverage
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Looking for reviews? Check out the latest Scotsman reviews – or browse all the reviews ranked by star rating
• Watch all the latest videos from the #WOWwagon
• Get distracted by our Festival Blog
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and join the conversation with #WOWfest