In August of every year, the population of the city of Edinburgh doubles for a few weeks as Scotland’s majestic capital hosts the Fringe Festival, the biggest arts festival in the world. The Fringe has become dominated by comedy in recent years, with a corporate, commercial influence creeping in.
The Revelations Of Rab McVie
The Filthy Tongues – Maria Rud – Tam Dean Burn
Pleasance Grand, Edinburgh – 24 August 2023
Words: Ian Sutherland
Photography: Mark Holloway
The Fringe still represents about every form of art you can think of dance, theatre, circus, poetry and music. Something it’s hard to find, though, are rock or Metal-influenced shows.
Rarely defined in such terms, rock and Metal are, of course, art forms. A look around the literally thousands of shows on offer, and there’s Robin Boot’s Rockomedy with a Maiden theme, Rockbeth, which is Shakespeare but with a rock soundtrack and Massaoke’s rock and pop mass singalong nights. But not much else.
What did stand out, though, was a show called The Revelations Of Rab McVie. Based on an essay by artist Maria Rud and inspired by a song by Scottish alternative rockers, The Filthy Tongues, this promised to be a real Fringe-style art event but driven by a rock soundtrack, and so it proved.
Fronted by ex Goodbye Mr Mackenzie man Martin Metcalfe, The Filthy Tongues expanded to a five-piece for this show. Opening with The Ghost Of Rab Mcvie, they built up a hypnotic, rhythmic sound, driven along by Derek Kelly’s drums and Fin Wilson’s bass, with Metcalf’s restrained vocals adding an almost cinematic vibe to it.
While they played, artist Maria Rud started to show off her remarkable talents, dancing around her table, working the paints with brushes and hands, and the projected results magically morphed into arresting, detailed images on the big screen at the back of the stage.
In These Dark Places continued the cinematic vibe, an epic stomp of a song which built and built and enabled the entrance of Tam Dean Burn to add the theatrical part to the evening.
Burn is Rab McVie, a man seemingly cast adrift in a nightmarish dystopian landscape and searching for some kind of salvation. As a novice to this kind of theatre, I don’t pretend to understand everything Burn portrayed in his intense performance fully. But added to the fantastic real-time painting conjured up behind him of blood moons, armed horsemen and a constantly changing litany of dark, often disturbing images, these were visceral and endlessly fascinating illustrations to go with the dark-edged sonic soundscapes provided by the musicians on stage.
The Filthy Tongues focused on carefully creating a jagged yet enticing sound. From the subtle rhythms and high energy dynamics of High to the pulsing, guitar-driven Gas Mask Blues, it all blended beautifully, and there was so much going on you often didn’t know where to look.
Jacob’s Ladder finished the show in suitably epic style, the vocal and guitar hook lines of the song seeping into your mind through the hard-driving energy of the band while the poignant ending with McVie looking exhausted and the final striking painted image behind seared themselves in your mind before disappearing into darkness.
I can honestly say I’ve never seen a rock show quite like this one, and if anyone is looking to have their mind expanded, blown or just to see the art of rock in action, then this is well worth checking out.
More rock, please, Fringe moguls!