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Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Andrew O’Neill’s History of Heavy Metal

Andrew O'Neill

Genre: Solo Show

Venue: The Pleasance Dome  


Low Down

Andrew O’Neill is a dedicated comedic metal head who, in his one man show takes you through his tour of the beginning of time and then the start of Heavy Metal using the riffs and songs in a distorted Metal method of madness. We go from the birth of a band founded on the back of a guitarist losing parts of his fingers to the various sub genres that make this vibrant underground music scene culturally vital. 


We begin with the start of the Universe as described through Metal before starting the journey with the Sabs, the arrival of Judas Priest and from heavy metal thunder and NWOBHM to the sub genres that gave us Metallica, Sepultura and the like as we hear what it is to be Metal, what is and is not Metal whilst O’Neill’s self deprecating reverence for him and his lifestyle is performed on a V shaped guitar with gusto and skill. This is a journey that is as entertaining as educational…

Andrew O’Neill writes excellent shows. If you are not into Heavy Metal and obviously called Richard in your spare time, then you may think this is NOT for you. You would be wrong as the crystal clear humour that O’Neill brings transcends your ignorance. I had to agree with O’Neill’s contention that you are defined by what you find in your teenage years. For me that meant my brother’s Black Sabbath albums as well as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. I went to see Iron Maiden in Ayr supported by Samson (Wonder where they got the idea of who would replace Paul Di’anno from…) Tygers of Pantang and then discovered the British Steel of Priest and then Motorhead and Metallica BUT my favourite band remains Deep Purple. At school we fought over Mark II or Mark III and whether it was Gillan or Rainbow… We rejoiced when Adam Ant swept the Punks away… I did like though the Smoke on the Water joke…

Reminiscing and rediscovering is precisely though what happens after this performance – I played Metallica in the car all the way home. O’Neill has you gripped in the palm of his hand and gives such a virtuoso performance that you cannot fail to become part of it.

It is O’Neill, the V shaped, some slides and a stage and yet it felt oh so much more. It was an onside crowd but it was also an experience. You felt drawn in and the in jokes were backed up by some great visual slides that kept it sizzling.

What impressed me the most was that this may have been a partisan performance but it was deeply researched. This was no teenage dirtbag conversation but was a social commentary about being dipped in a genre of music that does not want to feature on Top of the Pops. It can nod to the Beatles, Hendrix and others who may have brought influence to bear but it has a decidedly singular pathway to Hell.

O’Neill may have got me at the Sabbath riffs and I was an easy convert but there is something of this performance that goes beyond just telling stories to people who wish to hear them. It is about a social historian, donning denim, wearing the bullet belt and making windypops and sewing, Metal. Of the one man shows that I had seen that day there were plenty that were virtuoso, made theatre work for the artists, created theatre to be admired and were sound artistic visions. What O’Neill has created is theatre and performance for people who don’t necessarily want to see Julius Caesar but can understand the bloodlust he evoked. This is well worth switching Oasis and Coldplay play off for and taking a walk…