Fascinating Aida | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
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Fascinating Aida

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Fascinating Aida last took their brand of close-harmony satire on the road. But that is but a blink of an exquisitely mascaraed eyelid in a career that has spanned 37 years.

While they do rely on several well-received greatest hits, the elegant trio’s content can also be bang up to the minute. On Friday, hours after the polls closed, they were doing bitterly cynical one-liners about the election campaign via their Bulgarian Song Cycle, a series of musical apercus flexible enough to take in the topical.

Bu it’s their stage in life that informs their best numbers, whether it be an ode to the menopause or a celebration of funerals, the sort of gathering even the antisocial, judgmental Adele Anderson can get behind. 

More subtly, their age gives them a latent air of not giving  a toss, most wonderfully expressed in Dillie Keane’s dour take on the miseries of life. So dry, jaded and deadpan she makes Michael Whitehall look like Scarlett Moffett, she has a ‘resting miseryguts face’ to die for.

Her stance also stands in appealing contrast to the eager, professional approach of the glamorous Liza Pulman, as well as their droll, debonaire (and underused) pianist Michael Roulston.

Dirty lyrics sung with practised elegance always zing, and there’s a touch of the Victoria Wood about the specificity of their references and language, even as the effectiveness of the faux shock value of adult subject matter wanes. The tracks are melodiously taut, too, reminiscent of the jaunty efficiency of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Some songs, however, slip into more pedestrian observational territory, especially a predictable and ploddingly paced grumble about health and safety or an unenlightening take on the evils of social media.

That said, their biggest hit has been on one of the most hack comedy topics there is, budget airlines. But Cheap Flights also shows the potency that skilled songwriting, exquisite execution and a whole heap of scornful attitude can bring.

Virtuosity of performance certainly makes them stand out; not only are their lyrics tight and their voices strong, they move around the stage with a careful choreography, occasionally bursting into unexpected vigour, that infuses the night with a touch of class and showwomanship. Every moment has been carefully considered.

The notion of putting on a textured show also leads to moments of sobriety, such as the very personal story told by Anderson; though it’s a sign that the world has changed that her experiences seem to fall more in the spectrum of normal than they did when she sung about them in the 2014 show. The track also sits into the overall tone of the evening, for while Fascinating Aida are all about the entertainment, they are never shy of showing their proudly liberal colours.

Attitude, wit and attention to detail ensure an effortlessly entertaining show, even if some of the comedic content is away from the cutting show. It may be the easily consumed Christmas treat you need.

Fascinating Aida are at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London's Southbank Centre until Janaury 5, then on national tour from February 5.  Dates

Review date: 16 Dec 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Queen Elizabeth Hall

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