On Saturday 31st May 2012 my trusty companion and I made our way to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre to see Bill Bailey. This was a concert in aid of the St Vincent de Paul Society, which is a registered charity in Ireland. I have been a fan of Bill Bailey since I first saw him in Black Books and I loved Billy Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra which I have on DVD. So I was very excited to be finally seeing him live, even though we were very far away from the stage in the cheap seats.
Walking into the theatre we were greeted by stilt-walkers (one of which who my trusty companion high-fived) and a drumming group on a red carpet. I am afraid I was so confused that I forgot to take a photo. The theatre was packed with people, more than I have ever seen at a show in that theatre. We were asked would we have our photo taken before a backdrop by a nice man with a fancy camera and our names were taken. I was mortified as I hadn’t washed my hair and I had a load of bruises on my legs but I agreed anyway! However I was so surprised that I forgot to ask what this was for so if anyone knows please let me know.
We took our seats, which as I said before were right at the top of the theatre. We were up so high we could see the walkway at the roof! But we could see the stage so we were happy. I did wonder however how people in the boxes could see the stage as they seemed to be at an odd angle, with their occupants squashed up into the corners. Maybe some day I will get in to find out!
Then the show began, Bill came out to tremendous applause from the packed audience. He immediately won the audience over by attempting to pronounce the name of the theatre in Irish and displaying his other Irish language knowledge. However I felt the show was a little slow to start as it felt a bit rambling and lacking in direction. At this point I was a little worried but the show did pick up pace as he warmed-up. His piece on famous artwork was really enjoyable and he spoke a bit on cognitive dissonance and celebrity culture which was quite funny. For the tech generation he also spoke about acronyms and how some people no longer laugh but just say “LOL”.
For me though the highlight of the show was the music. I think he writes comedy songs really well and this sets him apart from the crowd of comedians that we can now pick and choose from. He played a fantastic Jamaican mix song which included quotes from Downton Abbey and a brilliant dub-step version of church bells, that he called “church-step”. As is often the case with Bill Bailey sketches some of the best songs have an education element, and he did a wonderful sketch based on the Alberti Bass. Below is the Tesco Check Out Song which I also really liked. But I felt, and my trusty advisor agreed, that some of the songs (and some of his stories) were too short and could have done with an extra 30 seconds just to end them in a less abrupt way.
I definitely think, though, that it was the audience and their willingness to interact with Bill and one another that made the show. Some of the answers were hilarious and the pantomime responses were very witty and well-timed. For example he did a song where the audience had to bark, howl and shout angrily and it would not have worked if the audience had not been as receptive as it was. I do wonder what the show would have been like with a quieter, less responsive audience as most of the material would not have worked.
To Bill Bailey’s credit he responded really well to the audience. He did a long encore, coming out three times and performing more songs, as people were just not leaving the theatre. Each time he came out the audience cheered and sometimes booed good naturedly which created a fantastic atmosphere.
Overall I did enjoy the show and €200,000 was raised for charity which is a lot of money in this time of d’recession. I think I would go see Bill Bailey again, maybe in one of his music-centric shows as for me this is when he is at his best.