Home Arts & Lit Review: Bill Bailey @ Plymouth Pavilions

Review: Bill Bailey @ Plymouth Pavilions

"I truly believe there is nothing the man cannot do, except perhaps rap": Jack Watts reviews the Plymouth leg of comedian Bill Bailey's 'Larks in Transit' tour.

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After one faulty train ticket machine, one subsequently missed train, one caught-but-delayed train, and a consequently brisk run to the venue, I sat down to experience ‘Larks in Transit’, the UK tour by British stand-up comedian, Bill Bailey.

Before Bailey came to the stage, I found myself recalling what I knew of the man I had come to see. Not a lot. I had seen Bill appear on panel TV shows, and that was about it. I knew enough to think I would enjoy my evening, but honestly not a lot more.

Bailey came to the stage, bringing a contagious energy and enthusiasm that quickly spread throughout the audience. Within the first ten minutes I found tears rolling down my cheeks in laughter, an experience I was sharing with those around me. No time was wasted before Bailey assessed the state of the world today: Trump, Brexit, and Nutella riots in France found themselves victims of Bailey’s sharp, well-articulated, and well-informed analysis. It didn’t take me long to realise truly how intelligent Bill Bailey is. Brandishing an impressive knowledge of such a range of topics, the man’s intellect is astounding, if not slightly envy-inducing.

Music plays a large part in Bailey’s performance, as he regularly dances back to his array of instruments, ranging from guitars and keyboards to the less common theremin. Every instrument is used at least once during the show, and each enhances the joke or story that Bailey tells. The trap of over-complicating one’s storytelling is one often fallen into by comedians seeking gimmicks, but Bailey is in his own category. When the man picks up a guitar, or lays his hand upon on of several keyboards it is almost impossible to tell whether you are watching a professional comedian playing an instrument or a professional musician spit out the odd joke.

Brandishing an impressive knowledge of such a range of topics, the man’s intellect is astounding

The aspect of Bailey’s performance that stuck out to me most was his regular interaction with the audience. Bailey went beyond the standard greeting and location-specific joke to actually ask the entire audience what I considered to be difficult questions. Where do we get days from? Bailey then considered the answers volunteered by the audience, showing off his improvisational comedy as he went. This interaction, although entertaining, sometimes dragged on as Bailey almost refused to move on until a member of the audience volunteered (no doubt, after quietly Googling) the correct answers to these questions.

A certain member of the audience enjoyed these segments a lot more than I did, as I’m sure he had visited the bar beforehand. This gentleman enjoyed contributing his own answers, especially when Bailey had not proffered a question. Bailey’s dealing with this heckler was less than effective, something I do not hold against him as there’s only so much you can say in response to almost intelligible, entirely irrelevant, drunken screams. Thankfully, we didn’t hear a peep from the gentlemen in the second half of the show.

Continuing the show with as much energy as he had started it with, Bailey eventually ended the show with three encores, all of them musical. One encore, an incredible rap, tripped Bailey up, something that perhaps normally would have somewhat tainted my enjoyment but Bailey, skipping back to his keyboard shouting ‘Bollocks! Bollocks! Bollocks!’ (in time to the backing track) played into his faux pas, laughing at himself and with the audience. Bailey offered to repeat the rap in an accent chosen by the audience, which proved to be a favourite with many in attendance.

Bill Bailey’s impressive demand of comedy and music, coupled with his articulate and sharp analysis of current affairs and historical events made him one of the most impressive comedians, and human beings, I have seen. I truly believe there is nothing the man cannot do, except perhaps rap.

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