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Although I cannot recall when my love for Bill Bailey began, he is now firmly in my top three list of comedians (the other two being Hugh Dennis and Michael McIntyre). In case anyone doesn’t know (and in case the Ciao Gremlins don’t show a picture of him), he’s the hairy comedian that looks not dissimilar to Wagner from this year’s X Factor (he mentioned that on the day, which received a huge laugh from me- this seemed to unnerve him as it was the only time we were laughing at him instead of with him). In any case, I saw whilst zooming up an escalator on the London Underground that he was on a new tour- Dandelion Minds, and I knew I simply must get hold of some tickets.
PURCHASING THE TICKETS Once I had rushed home, I convinced the boyfriend that we had to go as part of our “date a week” agreement. (It’s easy to slip into monotonous routine of slouching out in front of the TV after work, so we insist on going out somewhere different at least once every week). He logged onto the ticketmaster website, and clicked through the steps- only for it to crash, and he had to go through the process again. Unfortunately, he clicked the wrong date the second time round, and found out once the payment was complete. He read through the T&Cs, and we were unable to find a way to change the date, so I ended up having to find someone else to take the ticket (as he was not in London on the date). This was actually harder than I first envisaged, as I thought Bill Bailey was more popular than he seemed.. Perhaps this was because many of my university friends have only lived in England for at most 5 years, but they hadn’t heard of him. On the day before the performance, I managed to hook someone in with much difficulty- fortunately, she came away from the theatre laughing like mad, so the £21 was worth it. Our ticket was £17.50 for Stalls (we wanted to go during the first week of his performance), plus £3.50 in fees. We didn’t want to spend more, as we wouldn’t have gained any extra utility from seeing Bill Bailey up close; as well as that, sitting near the front is always asking to be picked on, so we tend to be at least half way at the back of the crowd.
THE THEATRE The show was held at Wyndham Theatre, which is really easy to locate. It’s literally right by Leicester Square station (on the South East exit), on Charing Cross road which is also served by numerous buses. The area has many theatres, and the council has conveniently put up numerous maps dotted around the area highlighting where the different theatres are located. Two bouncers/guards were standing outside the theatre, although they were not checking tickets. I waited inside for a while for my friend, and there were fortunately two benches on either side of the room.
Pictures of Dandelion Mind - Bill Bailey Show
To the right is the small box office; most people had paper tickets, so didn’t need to pick them up there, otherwise the queuing space would have been a bit too cramped.Whilst waiting, I had plenty of time to admire the interiors- I’m not one to visit theatres regularly, so I am always in awe of them when I go. The ceiling was beautiful, with intricate decorations, and I wonder how they keep the place in such pristine condition with the volume of people that go in and out of that building on a daily basis. There were several polite members of staff checking people’s bags before they went in, and marked them with a sticker once checked. No one reacted negatively to being asked to have their bags checked, and I do commend the teenage bag checkers for remaining so polite. By the staircase, were two individuals selling Bill Bailey merchandise. It was £10 for a brochure book, plus a FREE DVD. I was attracted by this offer, but upon purchasing and inspecting it, realised the DVD was only worth a fiver, as was the brochure. The printing on the DVD was dull, in a cheap box, and the brochure wasn’t printed in the best quality. I don’t mind too much though, as I wanted a keepsake from seeing Bill Bailey, and it provided good reading material for my tube journey back after the show.
We went up two or three flights of stairs to our seats, and were swiftly directed to our seats. It was then to my horror that I found out we were right at the back, in the stalls. We sat down, and found that our view was partially blocked by the ceiling in front of the stalls. Whilst we didn’t want to be near the front, we hadn’t realised that it as so far back! Whilst it wasn’t of utmost importance to see the entire stage for a comedy performance (we thought), it was acceptable; however, if you are going to Wyndham Theatre for a theatre show, I would recommend not getting stalls seating. In any case, as the show was due to start in 15 minutes, we decided to pop to one of the bars; to our surprise, it was empty, and we got chatting with the barman (I was showing him the ultimate way of pouring coca-cola without losing the fizz- I don’t think he was overly impressed). They had a minimum card payment of £10, so I ended up buying our drinks. They also said that they didn’t accept cards during the interval, as it gets so packed- we didn’t end up going in any case, so that was fine.
THE EXPERIENCE: BILL BAILEY We heard the bell announcing that it was time to be seated, so we plodded back to our awful seats. I was so excited when Bill appeared on stage. Whilst I had seen him earlier this year (at Channel 4’s Comedy Gala... or was that last year?), I wanted to see him performing a longer set. He started off the show, like most comics, by talking to the crowd. He asked how we were (we became one entity by then: Tuesday... brownie points if you can guess why), and did some moaning about Tuesday audiences being dull. At one point, someone shouted “It’s Eid”, but he couldn’t hear what was shouted after some back and forth, and concluded that the person shouted “It Aches!” in response to “it’s Tuesday”- this became an ongoing joke between us, which felt somewhat special as it obviously wasn’t part of the show. He managed to milk that joke for quite a while, as he followed on with some troll-like impersonations (maybe not troll like- but like that disfigured person in 300). One of the great things about Bill is that although he talks to the audience, he takes responses and then replies to the entire audience, not just the individual. Some comedians can take the picking a bit too far, but I think Bill’s approach is more friendly and enjoyable.
As expected, Bill did a fair amount of musical numbers. There were a few surprises, with musical instruments hidden under black cloths, which I won’t go into. However, he did perform “Hallelujah” in the style of Kraftwerk (a German electronica band, so I’m led to beleive). I think he performed this at the Comedy Gala, but I can forgive him as it was during the encore. I heckled him a couple of times to perform the Hokey Cokey song, to no avail. I guess he needed his partner in crime to do so, but it was worth a try. He also made references to the stupidity of some modern songs- hardly surprising for someone so into the musics. He moaned about the death of punk, as a frontman advertises butter, and had another good old moan about X Factor as well. As much as I love X Factor, he did make me crack up a lot. One particular song that he ripped to shreds was Akon’s “Smack that” number; whilst one wouldn’t have thought it needed a lot of skill to discredit this song, he took it to a new level, to a point I started enjoying the song for it’s comedy values.
As my main exposure to Bill is from Black Books, quiz shows and random youtube clips, I don’t really know much about him. I found from the show that he’s actually quite intelligent- I always seem surprised that a comedian would be intelligent, but it seems most of the popular ones are- with reason, as it’s quite hard to come up with and deliver a decent joke. He mentioned a joke that a physician told when talking about the Hadron Collider; but he had to dissect it for us, which showed he really did his research. Who else would understand a physician’s joke? Funnily enough, the scientific term he came up with (which sounded like Fembahn) was likened to a Dutch Lesbian bar- and my friend is from Amsterdam and that way inclined, so he received some extra laughs from us (and a few odd looks from others in our direction- “it wasn’t that funny... they must be stoned/drunk”)
I thought Bill Bailey’s interaction with the crowd was fantastic; he constantly conversed with us, and even played a song again after some encoring. The song involved us clapping, faster and faster, whilst he was playing on his guitar. He managed to pick a couple of awesome sing along songs too, which the audience managed to pull off- just about. I found that even I was singing along, despite hating singing. Towards the end, he was encouraging us to heckle him. Not in a bad way, but just by shouting at random oddities for him to work on. He mentioned the worst (or best) heckling he’d ever heard during his touring days, which was also highly entertaining (and encouraged us to heckle him a tad more).
His observational humour is perhaps not as strong as his whimsical ones, where he goes off on a tangent. He mentioned that the joggers are the dodgy ones, as they always find the dead bodies (Community Channel, of youtube fame, made a video about that over a year ago (although I doubt Bill Bailey would have seen it)). He also managed to play quite a special version of Stairway to Heaven, mocking all the would-be guitarists playing one of the most overplayed songs ever. It seems you cannot walk into a guitar shop without some greasy kid playing it (I was one, 8 years ago..!)
One of my favourite parts was during an encore show (he did two); he had a list of one liners and mini jokes, and then went over to play the piano at the end. At this point, the screen at the back lit up and started showing a video of Bill, acting out the scenarios he mentioned in the jokes. This worked really effectively, although it felt like he was telling the jokes twice (although we still laughed as much). However, this did sadden me ever so slightly as I thought we were special in having 2 encore shows- having the video there, however, sadly reminded me that the last bit was heavily scripted. Oh well!
So, to summarise. All of his content was new to me (other than the Kraftwerk song, but I would have been really gutted if he didn’t perform that as I find it hilarious), so I received good value for money. The seats weren’t the best, and I had to sit with my back curved the entire time- that’s not Bill’s fault though, we probably just shouldn’t have cheaped out on the tickets so much. The jokes, I thought were spot on, and had a decent mix so as to not bore us. I can’t imagine going to see a comedian who insists on only one type of humour. Having read the brochure, it seems that the set isn’t 100% set in stone, so it’s constantly evolving. He’ll be performing until January 2011, so I’m sure Max and I will go see him another time, at which point I can update the review (if anything drastically changes).
All in all, it was a fantastic experience, and I love Bill Bailey even more after seeing him in the West End :)
I've only seen BB from quiz shows too and feel hes a very funny guy. After reading this, would love to go to one of his live shows. Its no surprise you had a'fantastic experience'. Its great when a comedienne includes the audience so much. Will be back to upgrade asap :D x
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Featuring Bill's trademark musical interludes observations and stories of the road ... more
Dandelion Mind will be based loosely on the theme of doubt (or will it?) as we follow Bill from his real-life saga of being trapped by the ash cloud to his barely contained rants about celebrity TV creationism and Michael Winner. He demonstrates new instruments both ancient and modern he sings an internet love song a lament about punk heroes Iranian hip-hop and plays a mean folk-bouzouki. Thomas the Doubter gets a new look and Darwin's curious obsessions and the myth of intelligent design are all worked over in Bailey's own surreal style.He revisits the music of his youth with a brand-new French Disco re-working of Gary Numan's hit Cars played in his own inimitable way and maybe some Wurzel-based remixes of classic German techno. Just your normal Bill Bailey gig then.