Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Joe Stilgoe – Songs on Film

Joe Stilgoe: Songs on Film, Assembly Checkpoint, until August 22nd *****

Singer-pianist Joe Stilgoe’s Songs on Film show can be summed up in a two-word review: “sheer joy”. Why? Because it lifts the spirits, puts a smile on the face and sends you out with one of your favourite film melodies ringing in your ears. I’d say it would make you forget the frightful weather outside if you should see it during an Edinburgh monsoon, but the opposite is actually true since the first section of the hour-long show celebrates rain on film – whether in one of Stilgoe’s entertaining monologues or musically, with his trio’s lovely, gently swinging take on Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.

When Stilgoe came to Edinburgh for the first time with his own show, three years ago, it was a solo performance – but even then he had props. Back then, those amounted to a white board with a series of diagrams and pie charts clipped to them. Now, for his Fringe version of the Songs on Film concert which he brought to the Fife Jazz Festival earlier this year, he has all manner of props, from the black umbrellas which are lowered to just above the heads of the (hopefully not superstitious) trio to the Pixar-inspired lamp which appears on the piano for Stilgoe’s touching homage to that studio’s musical output later in the show.

And this is indeed a show rather than a concert. Stilgoe is more than a singer-pianist with a witty repartee; he is a showman and one with terrific, natural, rapport with all age groups in the audience. The stylish props and lighting enhance what would otherwise still be a hugely enjoyable class act. Among the musical highlights are the seldom performed Arthur’s Theme, an exuberant Almost Like Being in Love, a spontaneously composed (if not combusted) medley of themes suggested by the audience, the bittersweet waltz from Up and an unforgettable It Had To Be You, performed sans piano, with harmonies sung by bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Ben Reynolds as the latter plays his brushes on the side of the double bass.

First published in The Scotsman on Friday August 15th

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