Festival review: Bill Bailey steals the show at the Big Chill
Tim Clark15 August 2010
Of course, Bill Bailey stole the show at the Big Chill.
The immense popularity of the Black Books and Buzzcocks star was apparent as the underbelly filled to capacity two hours before his set began.
Hundreds of disappointed festival goers were left sitting outside, listening as Baileys set was broadcast over loudspeakers by Big Chill Radio. But disappoint he did not.
As you expect from Bailey, his set was a thirty minute satiric tour through popular music with nods to J-Z, Oasis, Coldplay, the Killers and J Lo.
He opened with a brilliant take on J-Z’s “triumphant” Glastonbury performance (“triumphant? He’s just shouting loudly over other people’s songs!”), and got the audience chanting enthusiastically along to his take on the Killer’s I’ve Got Soul (“I’ve got ham but I’m not a hamster!”).
In fact, Bailey seemed to have animals on the mind, at one point informing the audience that he had been “voted best looking male by ‘Apes and Practical Ape-keeping’ magazine!”.
As Bailey jerked and gesticulated his way from one bizarre image to another, the audience were carried along on a wave of eye-popping facial expressions and knowing chortles. Though it can feel like the comedy version of the Bermuda triangle, the pleasure really is in the journey rather than where you get to.
If all this can feel at times introspective, Bailey sought to broaden his horizons with a dead pan look at American culture.
His monologue on American perceptions of the UK (“guy says to me, what do you do in England? I say I’m the mayor, he says ohhh mayor of England good job, good job!”) lacked much of the originality and brilliant silliness of his musical material, but Bailey carried it off with the energy of his performance.
Things got a little more edgy when his attention moved to footballers, described as “illiterate millionaire borderline rapists”.
This received one of the biggest cheers of the show, suggesting that people would like Bailey to grapple with some more serious material.
It would be a shame though if Bailey lost the innocent pleasure with the absurd which makes him such a joy to watch.
Bailey’s coup de force came at his sets end, with a triumphant performance of ‘The Emo Song’, an ode to a young man who works in Starbucks and self harms.
Bailey melded the dark and the daft to brilliant effect, with piano solos, wild head thrashing, and vocals which soared and whispered.
This was Bailey in overdrive. The songs conclusion (“I stole some pins from the notice board, I pressed them into my hand and they spelled why?! Why did they spell why?! Because there weren’t enough pins for oblivion!”) had the audience in raptures.
As Bailey disappeared to thunderous applause, it was clear that here is one national icon whose place in the canon of the comedy greats is firmly secure.
Your rating: None
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