Note: This review is from the 2016 Fringe

Firmly established as a fixture of the Fringe, Axis of Awesome are back again this year with a brand spanking new hour of their familiar rock comedy. The immediate change in the band’s lineup is Jordan Raskopoulos’ decision to come out as a transgender woman over the last year, which in truth doesn’t affect their dynamic in the slightest – apart from perhaps imparting a new significance to their signature tune, Birdplane.

The trio still enjoy an effortless chemistry onstage, ribbing each other gently and playing to each of their respective strengths. Benny Davis is one of the most talented musicians present at the entire Fringe and even gets a chance to show off his language skills, while Raskopoulos’ outstanding vocals and crowd-pleasing stage presence command attention with ease. As for Lee Naimo, his musical abilities might not be as advanced as his bandmates but his sense of comedic timing is second to none, earning perhaps the biggest laughs throughout the show.

In addition to Birdplane, the band also predictably wheel out the talismanic Four Chord Song which never fails to impress, while aside from these two favourites, there is still plenty of room for new material. Opener Elephant in the Room deals with Raskopoulos’ recent lifestyle changes early doors and there’s also plenty of fresh ditties skewering the trashiness of modern pop songs in superb style. Elsewhere, Davis’ preoccupation with Will Smith offers recurring laughs in the shape of three, never-before-seen raps about his filmography which outdo Smith’s performances in the said movies.

In previous outings, there had been a tendency for the band to slip into darker, more meditative grooves, and the recent developments with regard to Raskopoulos’ gender could have threatened to overwhelm the show. However, this year the band are back to their upbeat, irreverent best, with the chatty interludes every bit as entertaining as the songs themselves. For extraordinarily clever lyrics, fantastic set-pieces and an easy onstage banter, Axis of Awesome prove themselves to yet again be the premier musical comedy troupe at the Fringe.