Tim Minchin, Royal Albert Hall, London
"Nothing ruins comedy like arenas," sings Tim Minchin in his opening number.
Except, this isn't just comedy – this is a show of witty stand-up, warm storytelling, tender tearjerkers, righteous ire and rock-star pretensions that, some dodgy sound issues aside, more than lives up to its arena billing.
Minchin's charisma and talent have never been in question and in this opulent venue 4,500 or so people see those superstar qualities mushroom. That opening line is the first of many gigantic knowing winks given to the audience to let them know that despite his hiring of the Royal Albert Hall and a 55-piece orchestra to bolster his cheeky and intelligent comedy numbers, he is still the same old Tim. He knows this is a potentially hubristic exercise, but such ambition led him to turn Roald Dahl's Matilda into a musical and that has critical acclaim in the bag and a West End run to come in the autumn. The guy is on a roll.
There is a triumphant air to the gig, which mixes new and old. The irony is that the subtler songs and the between-song monologues work best. What a time to find out that less is more. The showstoppers – "Tumour", the "Let Me Entertain You"-esque "Dark Side" and rock odyssey "Cheese" – don't feel like showstoppers, as Minchin's densely packed witticisms are drowned beneath reverb and orchestra. The more the players strive, the more you have to strain. You can't quite kick back and enjoy the ride, until a little moderation is adopted.
The show survives this. The second-half opener, "Prejudice", which relies on surprise for the joke to work, stands up to repeated listens and is wonderfully, lightly orchestrated. It is followed by the highlight of the show, a delicate "Lullaby" that reveals the darkest thoughts of a parent towards an unruly child. The poignant "White Wine in the Sun" and "Not Perfect", close on a non-comic, gratifying note.
Minchin continues to push outwards and continues to pull it off. Later this year he will return to the Albert Hall, as the first comedian to participate in the Proms. It is a smart move for all involved. Arenas suit him rather well.
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Liam Gallagher slams Daft Punk: 'I could have written Get Lucky in an hour'
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
After 61 films, including The Hangover Part III, Heather Graham admits she still likes to boogie
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
Film review: The Hangover Part III - it tries hard to be funny but fails to raise a solitary guffaw
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 3 'Something passed underneath us, quite close': Airbus A320 has close encounter with UFO
- 4 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
- 5 Two bailed after arrest over Woolwich attack Twitter comments
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.