Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue are something of a Fringe staple by now. It’s their thirteenth consecutive year here, they tell us, and judging by the roar from the audience when asked if anyone’s seen them perform before, some of the crowd might be here for the thirteenth consecutive year as well. They’re an all-male a cappella troupe from Oxford who went viral a couple of years ago with their cover of Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie, and since then it seems like they’ve moved commercially from strength to strength; Shakira’s endorsement rings out loudly on their promotion poster.

There’s real talent here and it's under-utilised

The musical arrangements are in parts very impressive, and to a man Out of the Blue are seriously good singers. This is most evident during moments when the soloists (by my count every member of the 12-strong troupe has a solo at some point in the show) take a step back and the group sings together as a collective. A cover of James Blake’s Retrograde is particularly good. Aside from their lovely voices, Out of the Blue have a good understanding of when the tone and tempo of a performance needs to change, and they manage to vary the pace of the show well. The dancing arrangements are more sketchy, and a bit corny in places (members of the group all wave to each other when they sing the word ‘farewell’), but that can easily be forgiven. Out of the Blue are primarily musicians, and that’s the way it should be.

More seriously though, one can’t help but feel that this show is something of a missed opportunity. Out of the Blue don’t play a single song that you wouldn’t expect them to play, to the extent that sometimes the show feels like an introduction to the last fifteen years of pop music for a slightly older audience. They open with American Boy, move swiftly on to Justin Timberlake and Destiny’s Child, and even find time for The Lion Sleeps Tonight in their 45 minute set. It all feels very safe and comforting, which I suspect is why many people found the show so enjoyable. But it also feels like they’re performing with the handbrake on, and unwilling to try anything really daring - we've seen and heard all this before. There’s real talent here, and it is under-utilised.

I suspect you already know whether or not you want to see Out of the Blue. If you’re a fan of a cappella, you’ll enjoy the show. If you’re not already a fan, I’m not sure they’ll win you over. They offer an hour of singing and smiles (and £10 CD’s - £15 if you pre-order their new album now) with the sweetness turned up to 11. They hand out stickers at the end, and at one point they even sing that they’re ‘sticky sweet’ and ‘saccharine’. Many will judge it an hour well spent. I suspect others will find the sweetness sickly.

Reviews by Matthew Bradley

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The Blurb

Embarking on their 13th run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Out of the Blue will captivate you with their unbeatable mixture of vibrant vocals, outrageously unprofessional choreography and often unintentional comedy. With their recent online hits, these floppy haired Oxford undergraduates conjure up a relentless level of energy and enthusiasm that has left audiences beaming around the world. 'If you don't enjoy yourself you're officially the curmudgeon of the Millennium' (Scotsman). Out of the Blue is proud that their show is supporting Helen & Douglas House, the world's first children's hospice, based near their Oxford home.