Edinburgh Castle gig kicks off Commonwealth Games

Live at Edinburgh Castle - The One Show's Alex Jones, Kaiser chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson and comedian Fred MacAulay. Pic: Gareth Easton
Live at Edinburgh Castle - The One Show's Alex Jones, Kaiser chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson and comedian Fred MacAulay. Pic: Gareth Easton
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‘I ALWAYS have so much fun in Scotland and the crowds are so amazing. So I can’t wait to be back again at such an iconic venue. It will definitely be one to remember... and I love a deep fried Mars Bar!”

Jessie J is heading back to the Castle on Saturday as part of the biggest musical spectacular the Capital has seen in a decade - and it’s all thanks to the Commonwealth Games.

Live at Edinburgh Castle boasts an all-star bill, the likes of which has never been seen before on the historic esplanade.

Presented by The One Show’s Alex Jones, the concert features a who’s who of pop, from Jessie J to Kaiser Chiefs, Culture Club to Smokey Robinson, and Rizzle Kicks to Paloma Faith and Katherine Jenkins.

Also lined-up to perform are Il Divo, OneRepublic, Alfie Boe, Ella Henderson and Pumeza, while comedy will comes from Bill Bailey, performing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Fred MacAulay.

Guy Freeman, the BBC executive producer in charge of BBC Live at Edinburgh Castle says, “With the Commonwealth Games, we all recognised that this was going to be a massive year for Scotland and the BBC wanted to stage an event as part of their contribution to the celebrations.

“We very quickly knew that we needed somewhere that, within a millisecond of people switching on, they’d recognise as being in Scotland so it really had to be Edinburgh Castle.

“Luckily the date of our event happily fell into the window for the Edinburgh Tattoo, so it was serendipity that it worked out that way.”

It was one thing setting his heart of the historic location, quite another planning the logistics required to make it happen, however. Not least because any open air event is forever at the mercy of the weather.

“The Castle is such a spectacular location, but it is obviously a historic building and a visitor attraction which operates year round,” says Freeman.

“Our operations need to be developed in such a way that we can stage and broadcast a live concert but not upset the visitor experience and of course be respectful to the historic site.

“We spend our lives working with partners and building relationships to ensure the smooth running of events, and with Live at Edinburgh Castle we’ve worked really closely with the Tattoo, the local promoter and Edinburgh Council on our plans.

“Building a stage in an open site requires you to take into account a huge amount of eventualities, the weather being the main one.

“When broadcasting live you need to be able to create a show which can run continuously without delays and having a live orchestra and house band involves a big technical operation to ensure you get the right sound.

“It might look simple when you see someone walking off stage and the next act coming on, but it involves a huge amount of work behind the scenes. There’s no second chance with live TV, so we plan with all manner of contingencies in our back pocket.” Among those looking forward to the night, is one-time burlesque cabaret star, life model and magician’s assistant turned hit-maker Paloma Faith.

The actress and singer whose credits include Holby Blue and the 2007 St Trinian’s remake says, “Scotland is one of my most favourite audiences. People are always so fun and welcoming.”

Hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks - Jordan Stephens and Harley Alexander-Sule - too, are excited to be heading north.

“We love performing up in Scotland, it’s always a lot of fun.

“Going to Edinburgh Castle will be a first for us, so doing a live gig there will be pretty special. Can’t promise we’ll be wearing any tartan, but what we can promise is an amazing night for the audience and people watching at home.”

And the opportunity to perform at the Castle also proved a draw for legendary soul singer Smokey Robinson, a man with more than 70 Top 40 hits to his credit, including Tears of a Clown and I Second That Emotion. “Edinburgh Castle is known all over the world and it’s a privilege to be a part of this event,” he says.

“I’m looking forward to visiting and performing. The atmosphere will be electric with such a great lineup of artists and musicians.”

Freeman reflects, “The magical thing about concerts like this is that they create a collection of artists which put on a mini-festival in two hours. I always think about myself as an audience member and try to include elements that would excite me as someone watching. That’s why the show will keep the surprises coming, until it builds into a climactic finale.”

For some, one of those surprises may be the inclusion of a classical element at, what is essentially, a rock and pop gig - performers like mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins, who says, “I’ve played in Scotland many times and always loved the warm welcome you get. I’m delighted to be part of this special night. The line-up is incredible, and having the chance to perform in front of the city’s iconic castle is the icing on the cake.”

Carlos Marin of Il Divo, adds, “We can’t wait. I’m sure it will be extraordinary night.”

“Nothing can substitute the sound of hearing a symphony orchestra and a rock band performing live together,” insists producer Freeman, “and for the people coming along on the night, that sound combined with having 8000 people sat round you will make for a fantastic atmosphere.

“There will be a lot of familiar hit songs from the bands, with a few surprises and a lot of laughs along the way courtesy of the fabulous Bill Bailey and Fred MacAulay.

“We think it’ll be a magical night and a fitting start to the party in Scotland as the baton makes its way to Glasgow for the Games.”

For many however, the highlight of the night will be the reunion of one of the 80s biggest bands, Culture Club, with lead singer Boy George, who says, “Jon, Mikey, Roy and I are all looking forward to Culture Club coming together and playing live for the first time in 15 years for this BBC event in Edinburgh ahead of our UK tour in December.”

• Live at Edinburgh Castle, BBC1, Saturday, 7pm, www.bbc.co.uk/edinburghcastle