Edinburgh Summer Sessions 2022 Music Review

11 August 2022

Ross Bandstand Summer Session Gig With Castle In Background At Night

There are few cities in the world able to stage gigs with such a unique and memorable backdrop as an ancient Castle sitting on top of an extinct volcano in a garden that was once a loch (lake).

A one-of-a-kind venue

Edinburgh Summer Sessions at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens presents music fans with the chance to witness household names play sets in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle in the heart of the city.

The Gardens, which were formerly the N’or (North) Loch, a manufactured body of water used to protect the castle from siege and attack, offer music fans the opportunity to take in the scale and size of one the capital’s iconic castles from below as it sits atop Castle Rock.

Previous guests to play beneath the castle have included Tom Jones, Florence and the Machine and Lewis Capaldi. For this gig, it was the turn of Michael Kiwanuka.

The performance

A decade has passed since Kiwanuka introduced his music to the world with the Mercury Prize -nominated debut album ‘Home Again'. His 2016 album ‘Love & Hate’ was also Mercury-nominated and 2019’s ‘Kiwanuka’ saw him finally take home the Mercury prize.

The gig kicked off with support act, Brooke Combe. Edinburgh-born Combe has been busy of late, playing TRNSMT festival, signing a record deal and winning ‘Best Female Breakthrough Artist’ at the 2021 Scottish Music Awards.

Her set including tracks such as ‘Miss Me Now’ was well received by those already in attendance. Following this hometown gig, Combe was embarking on a headline tour next month - Liverpool, Bristol and London dates already sold out - and it surely won’t be too long before she is headlining a Summer Session slot.

With the light changing, Kiwanuka’s band and backing vocalists entered the stage and began with ‘Piano Joint (This Kind of Love)’. With the instrumentals building and the voices of the sensational vocalists - Sinemin and Emily Holligan - gracing the evening air, Kiwanuka entered to rapturous applause from an excited Edinburgh crowd.

Kiwanuka’s talent is undeniable. He effortlessly captivates his audience with hits such as ‘You Ain’t the Problem’, the beautiful 'Light’ and a powerful performance of ‘Black Man in a White World’, which is accompanied by some sublimely subtle lighting, amplifying the message behind the lyrics.

The highlight of the evening was ‘Rule the World’ and Emily Holligan stealing the show with a solo vocal performance akin to that of Merry Clayton on ‘Gimme Shelter’ or Clare Torry on ‘The Great Gig in the Sky'.  It brought goosebumps, very nearly tears and threatened to shake the very foundations of Castle Rock itself such was its prowess.

Addressing the crowd, Kiwanuka spoke of how beautiful Edinburgh is before closing out with a rendition of ‘Home Again’ - the title track from his first album. The encore followed including ‘Cold Little Heart’ and ending with ‘Love and Hate.’

The temporary spectator seating for the Tattoo on the Castle Esplanade is visible above the stage throughout the evening and, as both shows draw towards conclusion, the adulation from the respective audiences intertwine in the warm Edinburgh night sky.

This was a paid review, written by Stuart Niven for Forever Edinburgh and in partnership with Edinburgh Music Lovers.

The Ross Bandstand

The Ross Bandstand has no set seating plan, because it varies for every performance or event. Check individual event listings for seating information, and if you have particular needs contact the venue on 0131 228 1155. Level access to the Bandstand area is at the King’s Stables Road entrance, just off Lothian Road, and the venue offers wheelchair-accessible toilets. The bandstand and seating areas are built on a slope, which some visitors may find it difficult to negotiate. 


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