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Tim Minchin, Eventim Apollo review - fabulous triumph of rhyme and reason | reviews, news & interviews

Tim Minchin, Eventim Apollo review - fabulous triumph of rhyme and reason

Tim Minchin, Eventim Apollo review - fabulous triumph of rhyme and reason

Age has not withered the ginger Ninja comic, but there is an intruiging new tone

Tim Minchin: comedy, pathos and rage© Andy Hollingsworth

Is there anything Tim Minchin cannot do? He sings his own songs, plays hot bar-room piano and tells jokes about the existence of God. He composes musicals, performs in Lloyd Webber and Stoppard, writes a multimillion-dollar Hollywood cartoon which he is allowed to direct – until he isn’t. As he explains in this riveting new show, the sell-off of a chunk of DreamWorks, the consequent nixing of his Aussie animation Larrikins in 2017 and his retreat to Sydney, brutally slapped a glass ceiling on his manic multitasking.

The film’s cancellation plunged Minchin into a period of morbid self-pity. The upside is this mojo-restoring tour, his first since 2011, including five nights at the Eventim Apollo. Outwardly, nothing has changed: the bare feet and giga-grin, the grungy threads and comic-strip ginger mop which is the inspiration for his most YouTubed song. Only when the camera pulls in is the eyeliner seen to be met by a fresh delta of crow’s feet.

Since his vertical take-off at Edinburgh in 2005 nothing and no one has impeded Minchin’s trajectory including, infamously, the Guardian critic who got out of bed the wrong side one morning only to be savagely immortalised in song. There’s something of the eternal sophomore in Minchin, who keeps asking why and picks never-ending arguments, but the debacle in Los Angeles has nudged the dial and made him anxious and vulnerable. “Leaving LA”, which somehow mingles comedy, pathos and rage, is a new song about a new feeling: defeat. It’s an intriguing addition to his palette.

Tim Minchin by Andy HollingsworthThe outcome is a memoir in song and stand-up as Minchin reflects on the globe-trotting odyssey undertaken by himself and his family. As ever, the default setting is irony: everything comes in inverted commas with meta-footnotes. And yet there is the ache of sincerity too. The rationalist in him can produce an unromantic portrait of another marriage like “If I Didn’t Have You”. Then he takes the breath away with “I’ll Take Lonely Tonight”, a soul-searching love song about the struggle against temptation. Minchin’s vocab-rich perma-rhyming clever-cleverness cannot quite shroud actual inner goodness.

At the same time this is his most explosively loud show yet. He opened quietly with “If This Plane Goes Down”, his dark RIP to himself sung in a lordly Elton John baritone, then dashed through “F Sharp” and introduced “Mitsubishi Colt” with an assault on any adult who has had the temerity to be born this millennium. Then the backcloth was ripped down to expose a mock-bombastic ziggurat of classical columns and a seven-piece rock outfit who amp things up to 11. With one swish of a curtain, rock’n’roll is the new comedy.

This enables the old ones to be bathed in a new (sometimes ginger) light. “Rock’n’Roll Nerd”, about a middle-class bloke’s ambitions to rock the world despite having nothing to say, gets to have its cake and really eat it, with guitarist Jak Housden gladly aping Jimmy Page’s licks and gyrations. The new musical settings, enriched by parping horns, have a pragmatic role too. The punchlines of “Prejudice” and the dairy epic “Cheese” somehow came up fresh – this is no groundhog day in which the songs remain the same.

Even when you think you know what’s coming, Minchin has a remarkable knack for staying ahead with verbal shimmies and tonal feints. He wrongfoots interval drinkers by sauntering on for the second half with the lights still up. The thing that’s genuinely new is his take on where we’re all heading. "15 Minutes" promised a Warholian portion of shame for keyboard warriors. A righteous rant about confirmation bias found him turning their semi-automatics back on Christian fundamentalists but also on progressives fixated on shutting down free speech. This pulpit harangue was so impassioned it didn’t always contain gags. “Tell someone they're terrible,” he preached, “you’ve lost them.”

This noble homily was somewhat ignored in the glorious “Fuck This”, a plague of locusts hurled savagely at the enemies of reason. He encored with “When I Grow Up”, his bouncy song of hope from Matilda, and “Carry You”, a beautiful elegy for a recently deceased colleague sung in a loving huddle with spine-tingling harmonies and a mournful trumpet solo from Rory Simmons.

As he exited after a climactic wig-out, Minchin politely stopped to pick up a mic stand and return it to the vertical. Not very rock’n’roll, that. If only civilisation’s moral compass were so easily restored to a true north. But this astonishing show sure does help.

@JasperRees

Minchin’s vocab-rich perma-rhyming clever-cleverness cannot quite shroud actual inner goodness

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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