"Mum says thanks," announces Peter Kay halfway through his show tonight, confirming that the aim of his last live outing seven years ago, the Mum Wants a Bungalow tour, was successful. This time around, with tickets costing £40 in venues holding up to 20,000, it's a given that he'll be able to provide more than the garden furniture he says she now wants.
By the time Kay's staggered comeback tour ends next year, it will have been seen by more than three quarters of a million people, grossing a total of £35m. It's fitting, then, that the unofficial theme of the night is inflation; the inflated ticket price; the hour wait to see Kay (half of which is spent in the company of Rick Astley, a support act that has me thinking about Kay's sitcom Phoenix Nights and its celebration of all that is cheesy and northern); the inflated frame of Kay ("I'm enjoying myself," he protests of his overhanging stomach, or "verandah" as he calls it); and, finally, the overblown climax that sees Kay play a shovel as if it were a guitar before belting out Queen's "We Are the Champions" in a white leotard, referencing an earlier gag about impersonating Freddie Mercury when he was a kid.
The finale guarantees people are on their feet for a show that only merits modest praise from a seated position, but that's showbiz and Kay knows how to hit the razzle-dazzle button even if his grasp on the funny bone is less firm these days.
Kay seemed fazed that the fireworks that were supposed to erupt when he made his entrance didn't, and a sense of mild annoyance seemed to linger around him throughout the first half, in which the metaphorical fireworks also failed to go off. He acknowledged the damp squib with a remark that he was going to get a flamethrower out of the back of his car to warm us up before he then launched into a quick closing salvo of jokes (including "What do Mexicans put underneath their carpets? Underlay. Underlay.") as if to address a deficit.
In truth, the first half wasn't as dire as Kay intimated, although it featured a rather uninspired, by-numbers dismissal of reality shows like Grand Designs, The Secret Millionaire and Come Dine With Me ("it's how they found Fred and Rose West," was one of the better asides).
It was on the other side of the screen in the family hearth that Kay had more luck, for example recounting stories of his father getting his privates stuck in a sun lounger. One of his opening routines about the art of phoning in for a "sickie" deftly touched on most aspects of the subject, one observation being that people now texted in their excuses: "Up all night. Coming out both ends. Send."
The second half had more gusto about it, due in part to a breezy section where Kay ran down a series of misheard lyrics, including Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" where one line sounds like "Just let me staple the vicar." It's effective, but there is little original to it given that the examples he uses have been well chronicled over the years. Unfortunately, it's also a routine that distills the frustrating essence of the show at large: entertaining but unsurprising.