Clarkson, Hammond and May Live: Top Gear trio return in – 5 things we learned

'I don’t work for the BBC anymore, I can say what I want!', Clarkson quipped

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The Independent Culture

The queue outside the Odyssey Arena in Belfast last night stretched to about a kilometre before the doors opened for the revival of NOT Top Gear Live. Not Top Gear, because after the public meltdown of the BBC franchise in March, triggered by a row over the temperature of some meat, the lucrative live show has been stripped of all its branding and renamed: Clarkson, Hammond and May Live.

A new world tour started last night in the Northern Irish capital, before moving on to Sheffield, South Africa, Australia, Norway, Poland and London. The whooping began as Jeremy Clarkson swept in on a modified hovercraft to the soundtrack of Survivor’s boxing anthem, "Eye of a Tiger". Punchy.

But what came next for the 5,500 people who had paid at least £35 a ticket? What even is NOT Top Gear Live, an arena show that donuted off the television screen more than a decade ago? Think a weird mix of a slightly pervy automotive talent show and, well, NOT Top Gear...


1. The comeback trio started with a race on cars made from kitchen parts. Clarkson said Professor Stephen Hawking would be proud to have made his dragster out of fridges and blenders. "But then Hawking would struggle to make a balloon animal," he added. "I don’t work for the BBC anymore, I can say what I want!"


2. A woman in a skimpy outfit clad with chrome breastplate entered the centre of the arena, followed by two black Porsches. She set them on fire as they passed her using a flamethrower in each arm. The cars continued to drive, ablaze, leaving tracks of fire. People cheered.

3. A stunt motorcyclist rode around inside a large steel ball. Richard Hammond stood in the middle of it. Then he got out, to be replaced by one, two, then three more motorbikes, in a routine that anyone over the age of 10 has seen a million times before. Still, they got huge cheers.


4. "Now sit back and enjoy some automotive pornography," Hammond told us. Then eleven supercars rolled out at very slow speeds under red lighting, to be greeted with wolf whistles by a mainly male audience. There followed a laboured debate about which car each presenter would like to take home.

5. And here’s one thing that didn’t happen. As Clarkson thanked the crowd at the end of what should have been a two-hour show, he announced that a stunt bicyclist called Andrei had been injured in rehearsals and had been unable to perform. Press officers make it clear that neither Clarkson nor any catering issues had been involved in the cyclist’s brief visit to hospital.