The world is coming down with a serious case of Glee-induced a capella fever, and the Edinburgh Fringe is the best medicine you can get. All face in palm acca-awful puns aside, Exeter’s very own Semi-Toned returned to the largest arts festival in the world this year, with their show Game of Tones.
We know to expect the highest of standards with Semi-Toned, considering their triumph in the Voice UK Festival this year, their irresistible ‘Rich Man’ medley and the accompaniment of that money-in-sandwich-eating video. Their successes are already numerous, but so are the amount of a capella shows at The Fringe.
Not to worry though – a packed audience fill a fairly large theatre, an already impressive feat. I’m not surprised either, when it comes to a capella, these vocal gymnasts are masters of their craft. And frankly, the boys are seamless. Charisma to burst, they opened the show with an arrangement of ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘Low’, which also served as their opening for this year’s Voice Festival UK final. You can tell they know it like the back of their hand, and I, normally religiously adverse to any audience interaction or movement, was nodding along.
The show also included classics such as Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’, Jessie J, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande’s collaboration ‘Bang Bang’ and Damien Rice’s ‘Blower’s Daughter’. In some of these numbers I felt that the lead vocals at times were a little weak, but for the most part so tight that tiny flaws are noticeable but almost always forgivable.
A Capella: if you don’t have a turntable, be the turntable
A highlight was the cover of ‘Samson’ by Regina Spektor. The lead vocal from Michael Luya was the standout performance of the show, creating an atmosphere as hallowing as it was impressive, and one that I preferred to Miss Spektor herself. It was a stunningly beautiful composition in contrast to what was surprisingly, something of a comedy. I hadn’t expected the level of humour the group presented, and it didn’t seem superficial or rehearsed but a little sprinkle of that Brit charm. From the Uncle Ben’s boy anecdotes to the listings of the professions of its members, the intervals between songs were swift, funny and consistently engaging. Not to mention their 90s club night version of the ‘Macarena’. I salute the choreographer who must have certainly preached that old mantra: “if you don’t have a turntable, BE the turntable.” Priceless.
And to the Game of Thrones fans out there? The show bared little reference to its title, only briefly in its welcoming sketch, where the boys kept accidentally singing other famous theme songs. From here it was forgotten. Towards the end of the show, the subject matter of the title was returned to in the cover of the powerful ‘No Church In The Wild’ by Jay Z and Kanye West. This conscious afterthought of the shows barely referenced to namesake might have been humorous, but to some extent, given its attribution to the hugely popular franchise, was problematic. They have unquestionable skill, and didn’t need to shoehorn their high class material around a largely irrelevant title. No bloodthirsty battles here, but a bloody tonne of talent.
Overall, Semi-Toned have done it again. The show seemed over before it started which is a sure-fire sign of an hour well spent; they had a deservedly successful fringe. You should certainly expect more than a semi good time from these boys in burgundy shirts and braces. I’m still wondering how that one member managed to make that electric guitar sound so startlingly accurate…