By Milan Perera, Critic Columnist
After their critically acclaimed sold out set at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, The Bristol Suspensions are back with another awe-inspiring a cappella concert that left the audience spellbound.
From the moment the first note resonated through the air, it was clear that the audience was about to witness something truly extraordinary: the exceptional performance seamlessly melded slick beatbox skills with freshly minted choreography, resulting in a mesmerising spectacle that they won’t forget anytime soon.
The evening of a cappella fireworks kicked off with two tight sets devised by the a cappella royalty, Lowkey and Algorhythm. Both these elite groups consist of some past members of The Bristol Suspensions and it was a rare opportunity to witness the sophistication of these two ensembles.
Oscar Andrusier is no stranger to the performance arts sphere at the university with his unparalleled skills in cello, opera, music theatre and a cappella. Is there anything that man cannot do? The former member of The Suspensions showcased his incomparable compère skills much to the mirth of the responsive audience; Ant and Dec eat your hearts out!
After the interval it was time for the main event which featured the year-end show for the Bristol Suspensions. It was a captivating display of beatboxing prowess from the beginning to the end. The beatboxers on stage effortlessly produced a kaleidoscope of sounds using their mouths and hands, creating complex rhythms and intricate melodies. Each artist showcased their unique style, pushing the boundaries of what one would believe to be possible using just their vocal cords.
The beats were not only mesmerising but also served as the backbone of the entire performance, driving the energy of each song and providing a solid foundation for the vocalists to shine. The set got off to a rollicking start with ‘Say Something’ which featured Ryan Blyth and Juliette Judkins as the soloists. It was followed by a spirited rendition of ‘Swan Song’ that had Arianna Kurtz and Maryam Noura at the helm.
What truly set this concert apart, however, was the seamless integration of meticulously choreographed movements with the beatboxing and vocal performances. The synchronised routines enhanced the overall visual appeal of the show, elevating it to a whole new level. The performers moved with such precision and grace, their bodies becoming instruments in their own right. It was as if they were painting vivid pictures in the air, perfectly capturing the emotions embedded within the music.
The range of songs they performed was equally impressive, encompassing a diverse repertoire spanning various genres and styles such as 'Little Me' to 'Uptown Funk'. Each number was given a fresh twist, with inventive arrangements that showcased the versatility and extraordinary vocal talents of the ensemble.
This is the ninth generation of the Bristol Suspensions with several new members: Juliette Judkins, Maryam Noura, Arianna Kurtz bringing warm alto lines; Emma Stent, Jess Edwards and Izzy Fraser with thrilling soprano fireworks, finished off with the velvety tenor and baritone layers of Sendhilen Ramen and Godfrey Yu.
The harmonies were flawlessly executed, creating rich, textured soundscapes that enveloped the Winston Theatre. The seamless transitions between different songs and vocal arrangements kept the audience enthralled, ensuring that there was never a dull moment.
Niamh Higgins and Alisha Agarwal brought out the raw energy of ‘Telephone’ by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé and provided it with multilayered harmony, crisp sound effects with choreography to match.
Another highlight of the evening was the high octane rendition of 'Faith' originally sung by Arianna Grande and Stevie Wonder. The soloists Samuel Chimbwandira, Jess Edwards, Iona Hoffman and Ryan Blyth put their own signature on this showstopper that went down a treat.
Much credit should go to the Group Manager, Alisha Agarwal and the Musical Director, Aran Woodger for producing a tight set with a cappella gems from various genres that had the audience in the seventh heaven.
The evening brought to a crescendo ending with a spirited performance of 'Uptown Funk', originally sung by Bruno Mars which had the entire audience on their feet and dancing to the hearts' content.
If this is the shape of the things to come for The Bristol Suspensions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2023, they needn’t have worried!