EDINBURGH 2013 - BWW Reviews: BENNY DAVIS: THE HUMAN JUKEBOX, Gilded Balloon Teviot, August 23 2013
Best known as one third of Australian musical comedy group Axis of Awesome, performers of the famous "Four Chords Song", Benny Davis takes to the Fringe this year in a solo outing. Combining a sarcastic wit with excellent musicianship, "The Human Jukebox" centres around Davis' ability to pick up on musical patterns, with examples from every area of music strung together in amusingly odd combinations.
He kicks the show off with a great medley of 90s dance tunes mashed together on the melodica, an instrument that is somewhere between a keyboard and a saxophone. Switching swiftly and seamlessly between an array of popular hits, the recognition of dancefloor classics on a quirky instrument sounding more like an accordion gained many laughs, and soon even manly bearded types in the audience could be spotted singing along to "Barbie Girl" by Aqua within minutes of the engaging introduction.
Moving on to his keyboard and mixing equipment, Davis relates his past experience as a busker on the streets of Sydney, performing whatever tune he was asked for, proving his skills by letting the audience shout out requests for everything from the finger-blistering "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse to the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme. In addition, he chats about how he hears music and how he can immediately recognise derivative melodies and common chord structures in all sorts of music, with juxtaposed mashups to prove his points. Some of these mashups worked very well, and I doubt many of his audience will ever be able to hear "Eleanor Rigby" in the same way again.
A few segments did drag, and generally he was at his best when sticking to the most recognisable songs. Some sound issues were also created by layering too many tracks over one another, making it difficult to differentiate different melodies (to be fair, this reviewer did find herself rather close to a speaker, but struggled throughout the show with some of the louder, more complex mashups).
The show features plenty of humour, both from Davis' dry wit and the incongruous nature of many of the songs he splices together. The musicianship throughout is exceptional and Davis proves adept at on the spot jokes through his audience interaction. The show does feel as if it is in need of a little further refinement to focus more on the strongest material, but if you enjoy a witty take on music or amusing covers of pop hits, it may well be worth your time to get your requests in to The Human Jukebox himself.
Benny Davis: The Human Jukebox is at the Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 25th at 2245.