Making her Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut, Lady Rizo brings an invigorating set of comic insolence and vibrant tunes to the Bosco tent at Assembly George Square. Famous for her residency at East Village haunt Joe’s Pub and “caburlesque” revue Lady Rizo and the Assettes, the New York diva boasts a repertoire as distinctive as her powerful voice.
The show is evenly divided between original material, assorted classics and post-1980 hits with old-fashioned arrangements. Modern tracks remade in the style of vintage jazz or Weimar cabaret are dime a dozen on variety stages, but Rizo sidesteps pre-war nostalgia by favouring 60s R&B stylings. While not a big stretch for Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing, her reworking of Nine Inch Nails’ Closer into a soulful funk floods the room with contagious cheer.
Backing Lady Rizo is an impeccable ensemble of keyboard, bass and drums. The trio builds up tight rhythms around her booming vocals, marked by crisp sustained highs a la Aretha Franklin. Together, they quickly warm up the crowd to her original songs: Ink Dip and Song of Freedom ring with the slick buoyancy of readymade chart-topping pop singles, making excellent sing-alongs.
The singer’s rapport with the public is bold, but often tense and hesitant. All the typical irreverent jibes and gags of the cabaret handbook are there – she straddles spectators, subjects them to embarrassing innuendo and enlists their help for sound effects and other accompanying gimmicks. Awkward timing, however, renders many such shticks perfunctory and distant. A clever skit sees Rizo relying on the help of an audience member for a backlit costume change behind a screen. No other moment in the show shares the same degree of theatricality, though.
Which is not to say humour is in short supply. The Lady indulges in sassy banter in between and even during numbers. It’s hard to find music this good that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Whether you look at it as a funny gig or an hour of musical comedy with exceptional tunes, Lady Rizo is one hot ticket to keep in mind.
Lady Rizo. Assembly George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LH (Venue 3). 2-7, 9-12, 14-19, 22-27 August, 22:20. £8-13 (£11-12 concessions). http://www.ladyrizo.com