Archive | October, 2012

Jim Jones Revue – Live

29 Oct

Concorde 2: Wednesday, October 24 2012

The Jim Jones Revue’s live shows usually resemble their hair styles; they’re slick, greasy and have seemingly been dragged kicking and screaming from a warped 50s apocalypse.

So it was a bit of a shock when the start of this show was more turgid than turbo-charged. Even the usually unhinged and raucous Shoot First with its screaming chorus was subdued and shaky, with singer Jim missing his cue to come in on more than one occasion.

But just when you thought this was going to be a damp quiff, they recaptured their hammed-up sense of theatre and in your face intensity with three songs that salvaged their set. First, the pumping chorus of It’s Gotta Be About Me woke those more than three rows from the front from their slumber, before the throat shredding vocals and fierce jabbing guitar on Catastrophe and the bluesy riffs and honky-tonk piano of Killin’ Spree maintained the standard with precision rhythms and cataclysmic drumming.

However, having finally found most of their full-throttle form – and sustained it with a mixture of crowd participation, hyped-up adrenaline and classic rock posturing – they never quite reached the demented heights they are capable of.

You’re meant to leave a Jim Jones Revue gig drenched in sweat with a high-pitched ringing in your ears and vocal cords in tatters, not a nagging doubt that they somehow hadn’t quite managed to be as extreme – or exciting – as you know they can be.

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Alexei Sayle – Live

24 Oct

Brighton Comedy Festival: The Old Market: Friday, October 19 2012

Alexei Sayle’s wife reckons his first foray back into live comedy after a 16 year hiatus runs the risk of “diluting his legacy”. No chance.

He might be a fraction less manic and not as likely to veer off into loudmouth rants, but that’s more down to age and experience rather than a dip in quality or a lack of passion.

In fact, Sayle, now 60, wasted little time in showing he was as gutsy and forthright as ever, especially when he’d got the political class in his sights.

Alastair Campbell and John Prescott were branded war criminals who tried to absolve their sins on TV panel shows, Ed Miliband was brought down a peg or two for being sycophantic when they met, while a gloriously vivid description of a dream featuring him and Boris Johnson in the First World War trenches had a terminal ending for the mop-topped mayor, albeit not at the hands of the enemy.

Away from the topical tirades, he also looked back on the miners’ strike – “they only went back to work to stop me doing benefit gigs for them” – dissected his Jewish Communist upbringing and revealed why he always took a pop at Ben Elton.

Later, Sayle joked he was frequently rated as one of the all-time comedy greats because nobody had ever seen him live. But judging by the reaction here, his stock only rises in the eyes of those who have seen him in the flesh.

Jason Byrne – People’s Pupeteer – Live

18 Oct

Brighton Comedy Festival: Brighton Dome, Saturday October 13, 2012

Hyperactive Irishman Jason Byrne’s manic pally chatter and sex-obsessed material was about as original as a Tory chancellor’s tub-thumping tirade about the ‘work shy’.

Just like an Old Etonian pandering to the predilections of the faithful at a party conference, the genial Byrne knew what his audience wanted and gave it them by the bucketful.

Throughout this show he involved them in everything – the first half of the act was almost exclusively centred on them – from poking fun at those who sauntered in late to gently mocking and mimicking the mannerisms of some audience members.

This was Byrne at his best, when he was relying on his quick wit to respond to whatever he had to play with. It was sharp, skillful and, as he said, with tongue-in-cheek horror “like a comedy workshop”.

It wasn’t until the second half that he delivered his prepared material, a frenetic wheeze focused on socially awkward situations and, to a far greater, extent sex.

Unlike the first half, it was standard fare and largely predictable, but the audience willingly lapped up his cheeky and titillating tales.

In some hands it would appear tacky and cheap, but Byrne’s lucky he’s got the child-like glee, harmless demeanour and twinkle in his eye to get away with it.

Richard Herring – Talking Cock – Live

15 Oct

Brighton Comedy Festival: Brighton Dome Studio: Friday October 12, 2012

Talking Cock, praising the penis, worshipping the willy. This was Richard Herring’s attempt to do for the male member what the Vagina Monologues did for the, er, vagina. It was time to bring the old John Thomas out into the open, so to speak. And Herring did it with gusto.

Suited and booted and stood in front of a giant projector screen, he delivered a rapid-fire lecture packed with every penile-related fact he could get his grubby little hands on.

Most of these were the results of 10,000 surveys that people had filled in on his website, which aside from uncovering the bizarre names people give their manhood and the predictable acts that 30% of men have tried to do to themselves, also touched on more sensitive issues, such as genuine crises of confidence and self-esteem issues stemming from ignorance, censorship and societal stupidity.
 
Let’s not get too worthy, though, because this set-up also gave him free rein to unleash every playground penis joke in his ample armoury. And why not? Especially when he unrelentlessly zipped from funny fact, to great gag, to serious stat without stopping, stuttering or seemingly pausing for breath.

Aside from the subject matter, this was a flawless masterclass in comedic delivery that proved Herring can more than hold his own with comedy’s big boys.

Bridget Christie – Comedy Review

12 Oct

Brighton Comedy Festival: Komedia: Tuesday, October 9

“Misogyny and shiny leggings. Neither do women any favours.” It’s a decent line. And one of very few Bridget Christie delivered.

Everything about her show, War Donkey, from the acknowledgement she picked the name and was then unable to write much material about war, or donkeys, to the show’s ramshackle rhythm and rambling delivery was, to use the buzzword, an omnishambles.

The show was centred around four incidents that occurred on the same day and, for her, put women’s issues into sharp focus. One was a terribly misogynistic review that claimed she only got where she was because of who she slept with; Stewart Lee is her husband.

From these incidents stemmed impassioned rants about how government cuts disproportionately targeted women and the “normalisation” of pornography.

They were worthy topics, but there were barely any laughs to accompany the lectures, save for a clever quip about women taking the same “decluttering” approach to their genitalia as they do to interior design.

With the exception of a few people at the front, this performance got very few giggles or positive responses from the audience. And her insistence on banging on the microphone to mockingly check it was working when a joke didn’t get a reaction wasn’t the best way to overcome a shoddy routine. Writing better material would have helped, instead.

As someone who once earned a crust working for the Daily Mail, she of all people will know you can’t be nice to all of the people all of the time. And that’s putting it politely.

Two Wounded Birds – Live

12 Oct

Green Door Store:Wednesday, October 3

On the first night of a nationwide tour, Two Wounded Birds proved to be a glorious mass of influences and contradictions.

Not only does the front man go by the moniker of Johnny Danger – even though the most risqué thing he did was swig his red wine straight from the bottle – but they frequently resembled a West Coast Californian surf-pop band – albeit with a dash of youthful angst – despite their pale faces giving way to the fact they formed in East Kent.

The Margate four piece might be strangers to the sun, but they quickly showed they were on more than nodding terms with some scorching tunes.

Opener Night Patrol featured faux-horror chiming chords, twanging across marching drums as Danger languidly drooled over the top, before the soaring melodies on the poppier, sway-along To Be Young simultaneously exposed the technical frailties yet inherent charm in his voice.

Despite playing for little more than 30 minutes, there was still time for some Buzzcocks-style pure power pop on Together Forever, a beefed-up croon-along, a doo-wop doppelganger seemingly from a 50s prom and an infectious new song clearly precision-targeted at the radio A-list.

On reflection, this really shouldn’t work. In reality, it was something pretty special.

Al Murray – Live

5 Oct

Theatre Royal, Brighton: Sunday September 30 2012

Al Murray’s been peddling his pub landlord persona for the best part of 20 years. And it showed.

He’s got a finely honed, accomplished routine in place, and there’s about as much chance of him tinkering with it as there is of him opening a wine bar in France.

Maybe someone should tell him it was that kind of complacency that did for his beloved empire.

Murray’s problem, like Alf Garnett, is that the character is a pastiche so polished that half the time you fear a chunky swathe of the audience is laughing with him, not at him.

It’s an unease compounded by his tendency to either test the audience or pander to it (it can be hard to tell at times) – with his line about not being scared of homosexuals, just intolerant to them, “like dairy”, being a case in point.

As ever, his set was light on substance. The premise of curing the nation of all its ills was whittled down to parents telling kids they can’t sing and pleading with women to sack off the vajazzles.

But to give him his dues, it was packed with laughter. Murray is the master of wringing every last giggle out of the flimsiest material, and his interaction with the audience was second to none, especially when cutting through preposterous job titles. “I’m an optical consultant,” said one member of the audience, until Murray slapped him down, telling him his job was to sell glasses.

If only there were more cases when it obvious who was having the last laugh.

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