Gig review: Penguin Café, Edinburgh

Penguin Cafe
Penguin Cafe
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SOMEWHERE between a tribute group bearing a literally physical connection to their forebears and a new and alternative cross-boundary folk gathering, Penguin Café seemed at once well-suited to but somehow less formal than an appearance at the Queen’s Hall.

Penguin Café - Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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However, there were no complaints about the experience from bandleader Arthur Jeffes or his rag-tag bunch of a dozen musicians, who appeared simply thrilled by the whole experience, and by their audience’s response.

Penguin Café was commenced as a project half a decade ago, and is a continuation of Jeffes’ late father Simon’s Penguin Café Orchestra, which existed from 1972 until Simon’s tragically early death in 1997 from a brain tumour at the age of 48. Seated at his piano, the waistcoat-wearing Arthur marshalled a group of instruments including harmonium and ukulele (the musicians playing them included sometime Suede keyboard player Neil Codling and former drummer with Senseless Things and Gorillaz Cass Browne) in a respectful bunch of Penguin Café Orchestra’s best crossover numbers, including Perpetuum Mobile and Telephone & Rubber Band, both now stalwarts of the television advert canon.

The original purpose of the orchestra – to interpret folk through the abilities of classical musicians – was respectfully maintained by a group with no small number of well-practised performers in its midst. A prime example was Arthur’s own Black Hibiscus, based on Chopin but recreated as an Ennio Morricone-style spaghetti western soundtrack, with guest performer Tom Baxter showing off his guitar playing skills.

Seen on 25.02.14