I thought Bill Bailey had had a blip, personally, his previous few shows being more like BB by numbers, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Limboland. But by all accounts it is vintage Bill Bailey.
He saunters round the stage like he’s lost in the Greenfields, but he has total mastery of the parade of instruments around him and his stand-up routines. The musical comedy doesn’t account for as much as you might think, serving mainly as finales and snippets to break up the stand-up.
As usual there is some musical genre-bending – his bread and butter, and the gift that keeps on giving. His variations on Happy Birthday – a 30s German cabaret version and an angst-ridden minor chord version – are simple but oh so effective. His death metal takes on any pop song the crowd suggests works well but is also the sort of thing Bailey can do in his sleep.
Similarly he produces a dance-y soundscape from the classic iPhone ringtone, and has a stand-up section about some key differences between men and women, so he’s not exactly stretching the limits of his imagination with this show, but there are some extremely funny results. His material on guitarists’ tongues, however, is just brilliant and shows there’s plenty in the tank in extracting humour from music.
I’d like more political material from him. He’s explicit in where his political allegiances lie (Green, he being a conservation pervert), and he does that thing where he has a pop at every party instead of singling out one. But again, he has some superb lines in this section, and it feels fresher than some of his trademark musical stunts, which one suspects he keeps in because the paying punters expect them.
His tales of family life are another welcome dimension, and run counter to his trippy hippy persona. All of a sudden he becomes a pretty much straight storytelling comic, telling the tales of taking a load of teenage girls to a 1 Direction concert, and the holiday to see the northern lights with the in-laws (which inevitably goes wrong), are enormously funny. I particularly loved the observation of the 1D members huddling round the guitarist onstage as if they’ve never seen anyone playing an instrument before.
His closing story of meeting Paul McCartney with a friend and bungling the conversation is a decent if underwhelming finale, as he can’t seem to decide whether to make it realistic or surreal, and it ends up falling between the two.
Review by Paul Fleckney