The Loveboat Big Band Summer Love-In

Fri 2nd – Fri 23rd August 2013

reviews

Imogen O'Sullivan

at 14:57 on 18th Aug 2013

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Standing in the beautiful courtyard of Summerhall, being regaled with the unmistakable tones of ‘When the Saints’, our introduction to the Love Boat Big Band experience felt comfortably celebratory. They march through the courtyard and lead the sea of awed onlookers up a flight of stairs and into what looks like a large village hall. Or, indeed, a barracks mess hall kitted out for a bit of wartime good cheer – and there’s an awful lot of good cheer going round.

The first thing that must be said is that the band are truly excellent at what they do – they are uplifting and energetic, and capture the essence of their music perfectly. The band leader, and double bass player, holds the enraptured audience in the palm of his hand with a remarkably engaging and charismatic stage presence – final proof of which comes later in the night, when he successfully crowd surfs to a brass fanfare. What is most impressive about the band, is how they successfully transcend generational appeal, charming both diverse strands of the demographic crowded round the stage – appealing just as much to those who remember the original Boogie Woogie Bugle boy, as they do to those that only know the remix from Itchy Feet club nights.

The entire event has something for everyone, and they all look like they’re having a whale of a time. In between the Love Boat Big Band’s sets are a series of charming musical interludes, as well as a DJ, and there’s also a stall selling appropriately sea-faring merchandise. During many of the pieces, there are a series of acrobatic aerial performances on ropes, silks, and dangling hoops, each one visually stunning and incredibly impressive - particularly the dazzling sequinned mermaid who strips off her tail as her act progresses – all these performances appropriately add to the sense of occasion.

My only criticism is one not easily solved. My enjoyment of the controlled and graceful beauty of the female acrobats was somewhat marred by the whooping and hollering of a small pool of drooling men below, giving the evening a strange feeling of a night of debauchery and frivolity straight from the 1940s, designed to buoy up the troops with liquor and glittery ladies. Personally, I would have liked to see more women on stage, and more men contorting and cavorting in sequined leotards.

Despite this minor issue, the Love Boat Big Band showed me the best night I’ve had in Edinburgh – putting on non-stop entertainment like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Generations were transcended in a shared sense of sense of good, old-fashioned fun, and that united atmosphere was wonderful to be a part of.

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Natasha Hyman

at 10:26 on 19th Aug 2013

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‘The Loveboat Big Band Summer Love-In’: bit of an unnecessary mouthful? Their tongue twister name doesn’t give much away. I’m expecting some sort of cruise-style jazz music experience... maybe cabaret? My night both exceeds my expectations, and, at times, also fails to hit the mark. All in all, it was a unique evening. If you’re looking for a spectacular and eclectic performance, then this is the place to be.

The evening starts in the courtyard of Summerhall. Audience members mill about in their crowded bar, waiting for something to happen. The performers emerge - the crew of the ship - they sound the ship’s horn (a kazoo) and, improvising on their brass instruments, lead us up the stairs to the worryingly named ‘Dissection Room’ (which turns out to just be a normal room).

Performers in sailor outfits dangle from hoops displaying impressive acrobatics, there’s a bar in the corner and a vintage stall. My immediate reaction is excitement and intrigue at the various types of entertainment on offer. However, I then realise that there’s nowhere to sit down. My co-editor and I opt for an upturned suitcase, but we’re then blocked from seeing the band by the throngs of people. It would have been good, at this stage in the night, if there had been cabaret-style tables and chairs near the stage. It meant that if you wanted a rest you had to leave the music and go downstairs to the bar.

The night consisted of jazz numbers from the Big Band and a few guest appearances; an upbeat Australian duo were particularly well-received. Every now and then performers walked around carrying fluorescent umbrellas with string dangling off them: jellyfish, obviously. It was these little creative touches which made the night special.

The jazz numbers were interspersed with fantastic aerial performances. Most impressive was where one of the performers did a whole routine in a hoop with her legs encased in a sparkly mermaid tail. Although the illusion was somewhat ruined by her slow removal of the tail; we weren’t entirely sure at first whether or not she’d had a wardrobe malfunction. It was also a shame that all the aerial performers and jellyfish-umbrella people were women, whilst the band members were male-dominated.

I’m not sure whether it’s worth the £16 when there are plenty of free late night places to dance, such as the Cowshed. Having said that, it’s refreshing to get away from Bristo Square and the places surrounding the Mile and venture a bit further off, the fringe of the Fringe if you like. Aspects of the night were impressive, but as a cohesive whole it wasn't top notch - a solid evening's entertainment.

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