“A bastion of dependable and hideously entertaining Fringe entertainment.”
My first contact with Axis of Awesome involved, like many other teens, me being glued to my computer screen as they rocked the hell out of a 360p feed on youtube. Now, a decade on from their founding, it’s clear that Fringe veterans Jordan Raskopoulos, Lee Naimo and Benny Davis are still soaring like a Birdplane even beyond the glittery lights of the LCD stage.
Whilst this review (as always) will attempt to avoid spoilers on the specific content of the show, let it not be said that the Axis does not begin on a high note. Their song “Elephant in the Room” is a fantastically witty product of self reference, and completely sets the tone for the rest of the show: heartfelt warmth, with a heavy dose of cynicism thrown into the mix. The quality of songs on display is very strong indeed: from rap to Bastille parodies, the musical nouse at play is almost unfalteringly good, save for a few sharp high notes in the group’s (often extremely) surprising vocal range. Davis in particular, despite his unofficial position as comedy whipping boy, continually proves he could go finger-to-finger with the best of them on the keyboard without missing a beat.
Between songs, the group’s clearly close dynamic is on full, glorious display. Though some of the skits felt a little low energy as the show warmed up for its final quarter, the inter-Axis fraternity outshines any qualms in terms of pure feel good factor. In an industry where so many horror stories abound of band members who cannot stand one another, bands like this one are increasingly rare. But even more rare, and all the more difficult, is for bands not only to stay friends through the rigours of long term performance; but also to keep that ember of their original intent and feeling alive.
But sat in an audience of hundreds, I might as well have been in my childhood bedroom again, eagerly clicking through links as the screen blinked out into the cathode-tinted night. The same thrill of discovery, the same laughs, and the same joy. And I think this illustrates what exactly makes this trio of modern day troubadours so compelling. It’s not their (considerable) musical skill, lyrics or even stage presence. They’ve gone through many changes over the years (the most obvious being that Lee is now bald), but Axis of Awesome’s greatest asset is that, at their core, they’ve remained wonderfully consistent. This is a show which has a little of everything: comedy, tragedy, horrifying mask props – all wrapped up into a neat bundle by music which will be stuck in your head harder than a sniper shot.
This is a show that proves, despite the ever-changing face of the festival, Axis of Awesome remains a bastion of dependable and hideously entertaining Fringe entertainment.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 10 August)
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