The Big Tune Up, a benefit concert for Bikes For Refugees Scotland at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight was obviously succeeding in its two main objectives – raising money for the charity, and putting on a concert with a broad range of musical styles, genres and performers.
On the programme tonight, some of Scotland’s favourite music performers -Todd Gordon, Christine Bovill, Dean Owens, The Dana Dixon Band and Alexander & Maclean with the Boteco Trio.
With the ever smooth compering skills of Todd Gordon, our evening’s programme opened with a band known to many Jazz and Blues festivals throughout the UK, The Dana Dixon Band. How best to describe the band, well loud is one word that sums their set up pretty well. This is a band that obviously has a love for that classic blues sound, whether that be cover versions, or their own songs, and Dana Dixon has the powerful blues/rock vocals required to deliver their songs. Dave Dixon on guitar is of course an essential ingredient to the up front line up and hard blues/rock sound of the band.
Our second performance featured a merger of musicians and styles with Alexander & Maclean with the Boteco Trio partnering for this event to give us a sharp contrast to blues/rock with their jazz and Brazilian fusion of music. This was one of the highlights of the evening for me.
Opening our second half of the evening was a name known to many people, and one of Scotland’s best singer-songwriters , Dean Owens, and some songs from his latest album “Southern Wind” and of course his new single “Elvis Was My Brother”. Dean loves the darker side of musical sentiments, and a passion for classic Nashville country music songs and writing styles certainly give him a vast landscape of dark and at times unhappy stories to write and sing about. As always though, there is that warmth and humour to any of Dean Owens’ live performances. There is always too that surprise element of just never knowing what songs Dean will sing at any show, and an unexpected cover of “Tinseltown in the Rain” by “The Blue Nile” was a more than pleasant surprise to his set.
Christine Bovill, taking stage centre after Dean, was as always a pleasure not only to watch and listen to, but also to wonder how the very spirit of classic “Chansons Françaises” found a home in someone from Glasgow. Christine Bovill not only brings the songs of legends like Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour and Gilbert Becaud to life once more, but somehow also lives out on-stage the stories in these songs. An opening duet with Todd Gordon of the Jacques Brel classic “Ne Me Quitte Pas" re-united the two of them from their “French Connections” show. Oddly, the duet of Todd singing the English language re-written story and lyric of “If You Go Away” and Christine singing the original French language story here worked well. Another French and English language song with two very different lyrics and stories worked very well too – the always wonderful “Je t'appartiens” by Gilbert Becaud - a melody known to so many more people via the English lyric and story as “Let it Be Me” made famous by The Everly Brothers. In this set of course, some classic Edith Piaf songs and a tribute to the recently departed from this world, Charles Aznavour. Christine had obviously given much thought to her set list tonight, and Paul Simon’s “American Tune” seemed a perfect choice lyrically for this fund raising event.
Closing our musical entertainment for the evening, Todd Gordon was back on stage after all too long an absence in Edinburgh delivering his classic and effortlessly smooth “Songs from the Great American Songbook”. Good to see Todd and pianist David Patrick back on stage together too. In an unusual move away from the classic song-book, was a cover version of Gilbert O Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)”. A wonderful song and performance that certainly gave Dean Owens some competition in the musical misery stakes this evening.
Some great music by some of Scotland’s best performers, but this evening, for me, none of them were the stars. That honour went to a young lady called “Zozan”. A young asylum seeker, a journalist leaving behind everything and everyone that she knows to seek safety and the chance to make a new life and a new home here in Edinburgh; her words summed up everything that this event and the charity stand for. To anyone out there reading this review that is still viewing the world through the very manipulated popular press and media outlets, just meet someone like this young woman, see the face of your “perceived threat” and be prepared to swiftly adjust your pre-conceptions of asylum seekers.
Bikes for Refugees Scotland does a very simple thing. It takes donated bicycles and re-furbishes them to give to refugees. It may not sound a lot, but it does a lot as something as simple as a bicycle affords people almost cost free transport to connect, socialise and integrate with the greater society around them, and to date the charity have refurbished and donated over 500 bicycles in the two short years that they have been operational.
Review by Tom King