A sultry jazz vibrato intermingles with strains of reverb-soaked guitar as Carla Lippis takes to the microphone in her Fringe debut. Infusing the self-conscious sexuality of the European yé-yé scene with hints of rockabilly twang, Baby Carla's Bad Girl Rumble combines original songs with cover into a tight 45-minute set that serves as an emphatic introduction to the Edinburgh stage.
Accompanied by a mic, a stool, and a single guitarist, Lippis's magnetic stage presence commands attention. Between numbers, she engages with the audience: her conversation is warm, humble, and endearingly self-deprecating. Yet, thanks partly to the stage's red wash, she remains to some degree removed from her audience, preserving a captivating mystique, reminiscent of the undefinable star quality of the artists to whom she pays tribute.
Her usual band stripped down to a single electric guitar by the practicalities of the performance space (Lippis describes it as “gynaecologically intimate”), the show occasionally relies upon a pre-recorded backing track to replace the absent percussion, and the tinny, compressed sound of the mix undermines those numbers that use it to excess. But when her voice is given room to breathe, Lippis shines. Her cover of Nancy Sinatra's 'Bang Bang'—a particular highlight—showcases an impressive vocal range: in full voice, she is powerful yet alluring, while her softer tones infuse an emotive tenderness, without compromising richness or strength.
If the limitations of the cramped space encroach upon the performances, enforcing a stillness that dampens the show's impassioned spirit, it also serves to bring into sharper focus Lippis's formidable vocal talents. Packing a bold central performance into a tantalisingly compact running time, Baby Carla's Bad Girl Rumble is an impressively assured Fringe debut.