sun 21/07/2024

Fascinating Aida, London Palladium review - celebrating 40 glorious years of filth and defiance | reviews, news & interviews

Fascinating Aida, London Palladium review - celebrating 40 glorious years of filth and defiance

Fascinating Aida, London Palladium review - celebrating 40 glorious years of filth and defiance

Age has not withered one jot the FAs' fury at the absurdities of modern life

Savage satirists: Liza Pulman, Dillie Keane and Adèle AndersonGeraint Lewis

You don’t expect a couple of septuagenarian contraltos, aided by a spring chicken of a soprano in her fifties, to sing naughty ditties about jacksies and titties. Then again, if you are a Fascinating Aida fan, you do. 

Thousands of fans turned up for the FAs’ three-night run at the Palladium, greeting the trio with a roar as if they were rock stars entering an arena. They’re much more interesting than most rock musicians: a fearlessly outspoken, deliciously outrageous act whose political stance has become more passionately entrenched over the 40-plus years since FA was formed by Dillie Keane in 1983. Keane is still their main composer and co-writes many of the lyrics with Adèle Anderson, who joined FA the year after; Liza Pulman was recruited a mere 20 years ago. None of the idiocies of modern life is safe from their composing skills.

Their opener, a double-header accompanied at the piano by their musical director, Michael Roulston, is a blueprint for the FAs’ one-two approach. “We’re Next”/“We’re Not Done Yet”, sung with fists raised Black Power style, sets up the theme weaving through the evening of the indignities of old age, when things are stiff when you don’t want them to be, “and not when you do”, and Death has become a regular visitor to your book club. But then in “We’re Not Done Yet" they bite back, playing to all the accusations thrown at boomers by millennials – basically, that they have eaten all the pies and ruined the planet for the generations to come – and revelling in this belated new power. (Those who have followed Keane’s eco blog will know how committedly green she actually is.)

You can never be sure where an FA number is going. Their MO has a lot in common with the stiletto assassins of old: beguile your target with beaming smiles and sweet sentiments, then stick them in the ribs with lyrics of razor-sharp accuracy and venomous content, usually spawning outlandish rhymes (my favourites this time were “Toshiba/Bieber/amoeba” and “whole food”/“bowl food”. ) “Mother, Dear Mother”, for example, begins as a sunny song about a daughter taking an aged parent on a nice trip abroad, until the view she is recommending turns out to be somewhere in Switzerland…

There are a handful of greatest hits on the current bill. Mock-grouchily, Keane introduced their viral megahit “Cheap Flights", as if wanting to get it over with early. It doesn’t matter how many times you see it, it’s still a perfect piece of satire, right down to the mad Riverdance parody they attempt, legs kicking out like a wayward string puppet’s. Another roar of recognition came in the second half when Keane, a serene vision in an aqua sparkly gown, her white hair in a chignon, gently announced there would now be a love song. Just two bars of her thumping bar-room intro on the piano revealed this to be the perennial favourite “Dogging”, the FAs’ literally no-holds-barred description of this car-based activity. 

There is no shortage of targets for their venom. In “If You Wanna Do Something Good Today…” they suggest the assassination of a former US president (another deafening roar greeted that suggestion); in “Holidays”, they rip into the insouciant first-class travellers eating their way through the world’s endangered species; and in “A Tory MP” condemn the whole tribe, including the former one serving as foreign secretary (last line, “Tosser” – more rousing cheers). They skewer cold-hearted middle England worthies in “Widows” and comically sullen 11-year-olds slumped on chairs in “Bored”, who are “B-O-R-D, bored”.Lisa Pulman, Adele Anderson and Dillie Keane of Fascinating AidaThe FAs are adept musical recyclers and parodists too. They excel in everything from Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs to German cabaret dirges sung deliberately out of tune, deploy their close harmonies brilliantly in the regular item “Bulgarians”, in which they target topical items (some from the day before’s headlines) in the strident style of Les Voix Bulgares, then switch to a slow jazz number with ragtime flourishes for “The Blues Got a Skeleton Key” and on to hiphop in “Down With the Kids”, where they (painfully) grab their crotches and ridicule those who won’t age gracefully. Keane memorably reinvents herself as Li’l Dill, strutting about in a backwards baseball cap proclaiming “I-and-I is the boss of you”, but resorting to an oxygen mask while the other two bounce and bodypop.

The evening features two newish classics. One is already online, “A.I.", a Kraftwerk tribute which Roulston accompanies on an electric keyboard while the ladies do a robot dance and bewail the controlling, even lewd behaviour of their computerised watches. My new favourite is “Enemy of Beauty,” a satirical number with the refrain “Mobility is the enemy of beauty”, for which they sway from side to side but show no other sign of motion, definitely not in their faces or even their mouths. It’s not a polite lament for women as cosmetic industry victims but savage, almost Rabelaisian, in its descriptions of what they have done to their bodies, with a gloriously outrageous punchline.

Keane may get laughs by making a meal of climbing down from the piano stool she had been moved to stand up on, but in important respects age has not withered her one jot, or Anderson, as lithe and slinky as ever, with Pulman adding notes of perkiness to the other two’s darker sounds. The furiously rebellious energy that drives them – and their silvery audiences – is a much needed tonic. And it’s liberatingly filthy, much filthier than Frank Skinner. Respect.

They excel in everything from Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs to German cabaret dirges sung deliberately out of tune


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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