EFR - Review of Alternotive A Capella

Alternotive A Capella

Fri 5th – Sat 20th August 2011

reviews

Fen Greatley

at 11:46 on 12th Aug 2011

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The Fringe is lucky to boast a great many talented a cappella acts. None of them is quite like The Oxford Alternotives, who return for their second year at the festival with their kooky mix of current favourites and classics remixed, all delivered in an alternative format.

This year's incarnation of Alts sees several new faces – many of whom have only performed to friendly Oxford audiences - and a change of venue. Perhaps for the slightest instance these two combined to make the first couple of minutes slightly nervous, but for the rest of the time it was plain sailing, with smiles abound and each member fully committed to enjoying themselves and performing to the highest standard.

The Alts are real ear candy, the setlist here a sumptuous box of vocal chocolates – and this is no Milk Tray. All manner of genres and styles are incorporated with mastery, giving the audience a great selection for their dollar. A trademark characteristic of this group is the strength of their individual soloists; this show is marked by certain standout performances: Sarah Anson's 'California Gurls' is the perfect opening number for the show and for her voice.Alistair Livesey's 'You Look Wonderful Tonight' met with a palpably appreciative reception: three seconds of stunned silence before rapturous applause. Emily Gill's 'I Want You Back' is phenomenal; she lets loose in a way that shows fluid ease on stage, her notes some of the most satisfying in the show.

In each of these solo songs, we are so spellbound that we hardly notice the delicately woven patchwork of accompaniment beneath. The ensemble is strong and moves powerfully between divergent harmonies and a wall of distinct sounds, mixing fortitude and levels of blending. To display this, their cheeky reggae number is a winner. Key changes, sharps and flats make no difference: everything is note-perfect and frighteningly well coordinated.

Something that no other group tends to offer is the Alts' brand of adventurousness. Beyond exciting new arrangements, they push the boundaries of what's expected and can be realistically achieved in an a cappella concert – their improvised ditties based entirely on a random permutation of cards is the definite highlight.

Choreography and various plateaus make the performance almost as visually arresting as it is vocally; they're so comfortable in what they're doing that they can give a good deal of energy to their movement.

Audience interaction was here again used, but might have been made more of. While the singing is technically even better under new MD Dom Burrell than last year's impressive run, the overall show lacked a certain sparkle of 2010 that was perhaps dampened by the rain. It was still, however, one of the most dazzling things I've seen so far at the Fringe.I don't doubt that the shows will get better and you will see five-star a cappella during this run.

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