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Jonny and the Baptists: Bigger Than Judas

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

There are fewer Baptists than there used to be. In the 12 months since the last Fringe, Jonny Donahoe’s band have lost their fiddle player, Amy Butterworth, who gave them such a distinctive sound.

Now down to just a guitarist Paddy Gervers and frontman Donohoe, the simpler set-up means their gig is less like a ceilidh and there’s more emphasis on the lyrics, which is perhaps no bad thing for the messages they want to get out. For now they’ve started appearing on The Now Show, they’re getting a bit more political in their outlook.

There are upbeat songs about UKIP, rejoicing at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral  and that most pressing of social issues: soup. They are not overly-strident – the fit with the Radio 4 topical slot is a good one – but smuggle in their liberal-left agenda behind jaunty, catchy melodies and Donahoe’s effusive middle-class enthusiasm.

The funniest track of the lot blends the big ideas with the reality of British politeness, mumbling under our breath about the great moral outrages, but only genuinely being stirred into action by the trivial.

According to the pair, one composition calling for an end to the discrimination that prevents gay men from giving blood – a protest song in the finest tradition – was banned by the BBC ‘because it promotes homosexuality’. Vladimir Putin would be proud.

This is one of a few repeats from last year’s show. The Edinburgh Fringe has to be the place to reiterate their plea to vote ‘no’ to devolutio, via the medium of the plaintive ballad Scotland Don’t Leave Me, while there’s also another outing for the toe-tapper Not A Pub, lamenting the rise of the gastro- prefixed drinking houses. But in music you have to give ’em the hits...

With more energy than might be expected so late in the Fringe, Bigger Than Judas is another relentlessly fun offering by the talented two-piece. Yet it also feels that their best work is ahead of them, as they increasingly find that they have something to say.

Review date: 26 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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