Military Tattoo kicks off the Edinburgh Festival

It has been a centrepiece of the Edinburgh Festival for 66 years and proudly proclaims itself as 'the greatest show on earth.'

Friday, 5th August 2016, 9:12 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:46 pm
Massed Military bands. Picture; Ian Georgeson


Last night the 1200-strong cast of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo unveiled the dazzling new show which will play to an estimated 220,000 ticket-holders over the next three weeks.

Spectacular tributes honouring the late rock icon David Bowie, the 90th birthday of the Queen and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland were among the highlights of the opening performance.

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Fireworks at the Tattoo. Picture; Ian Georgeson

Organisers deployed a whole host of striking new special effects during the show, which also featured hits by The Proclaimers, Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton, as well as cinematic themes of Star Wars, Mission Impossible, Chariots of Fire and the James Bond films.

The opening night at the castle esplanade got underway with the stirring sight of more than 250 massed pipers and drummers, including members of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Royal Scots Borderers.

Snowfall effects swept across the full house of 8800 ticket-holders and a vast image of Mount Everest was beamed onto the face of castle to celebrate the Himalayan homeland of the Nepal Army Band as they performed.

The crowd-pleasing daredevil displays from perennial Tattoo favourites The Imps, the UK’s leading youth motorcycle display team, were accompanied by a medley of themes from the Star Wars saga as the intergalactic battles were played out on the castle behind them.

The Imps Motorcycle display team. Picture; Ian Georgeson

The band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Scotland led the Battle of Jutland tribute as images of the biggest naval conflict of the First World War appeared.

The United States Army Europe Band thrilled the audience with rollicking renditions of Presley favourite All Shook Up, Parton classic 9 to 5 and Aretha Franklin hit Think, along with jazz classics Sing, Sing Sing and Minnie the Moocher.

A precision drill display from the all-female Lochiel Marching Team from Wellington, in New Zealand, was set to music from Lord of the Rings.

Other overseas star turns included the Norwegian King’s Guard, whose performed was rounded off by Loch Lomond, and the brassy sounds of the New Zealand Army Band, whose rousing set included a “Haka” and The Proclaimers’ biggest hit I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Images of the Queen were beamed onto the castle during a special 90th birthday sequence, which included coronation anthem Zadok the Priest.

A tribute to David Bowie. Picture; Ian Georgeson

The finale of the two-hour show saw the entire cast assemble for an epic performance of David Bowie’s classic hit Life on Mars, set to a fireworks display, before a crowd-hushing performance of Sleep Dearie Sleep by the Tattoo’s lone piper.

Fireworks at the Tattoo. Picture; Ian Georgeson
The Imps Motorcycle display team. Picture; Ian Georgeson
A tribute to David Bowie. Picture; Ian Georgeson