HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, August 23 * * * * *

In the wrong singer/songwriter’s hands, or rather feet, loop pedals can make shows feel gimmicky, regardless of the music’s sentiment. Unfortunately, for every innovator like say Laura Veirs, there’s a David Ford or KT Tunstall for whom the act of using said gadget often appears more important than the actual music.
For Chicago-born Andrew Bird, the loop pedal is a tool to bring his music to life on stage – it’s functional rather than a theatrical aid. He could use a backing band but it probably wouldn’t generate the same intimate, personal vibe that ensured a dedicated silence was observed for the duration of tonight’s immaculate 14-song set.
It’s little wonder such a reverent hush fell over the audience as at times his music and delivery left us speechless, reaching for superlatives during sustained bursts of applause after each and every song.
Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the left and Fitz and the Dizzyspells with their layers of plucked, strummed and bowed violin, whistled samples and rounded off by Bird’s smooth versatile vocals dazzled early on while Natural Disaster, Effigy and crowd favourite Scythian Empires further enhanced an already sublime evening’s entertainment.

HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, August 7 * * *

After an eighteen year absence, punk survivors The Stranglers made a welcome return to the capital tonight for what, if rumours are to be believed, might be the last time. Charged with kicking off the second year of the Edge Festival, the quartet certainly didn’t disappoint the loyal legions of fans who packed out the Picture House.
A rousing rendition of Waltzin’ Black from accordionist Jock the Box ensured the stage was set and the atmosphere charged for the arrival of a band set to celebrate its 35th birthday come the autumn.
The four-piece didn’t waste any time getting down to the business at hand. In fact it’s fair to say no time was wasted at any stage during the band’s glitch-free 25-song set. However their machine-like efficiency involving little in the way of crowd-interaction ultimately worked against them as although momentum was never lost it was a performance that often felt routine.
A mixed bag of tracks and playing crowd pleasers like Peaches, Always The Sun and Golden Brown early on meant proceedings seemed to drag in the latter stages. That said however, it didn’t matter to the hordes of punters determined to revel in every last moment of a display best described as one for the life-long fans.