Tim Minchin: So Rock
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
2005 Perrier Best Newcomer Award. 2005 Festival Directors' Award, Melbourne Comedy Festival.
Warning: If you see Tim Minchin this year, his opening song will echo around you head for days, if not weeks.
Even though we now know this barefooted Australian maestro, thanks to the well-deserved hype and Perrier newcomer award, So Rock's anthemic title track is still astoundingly good, as good as musical comedy can ever hope to get. As he builds up the pounding riffs by miming each instrument in term, the anticipation builds. Then he lets loose with a fantastic song whose sharp lyrics expoe the gulf between his image all heavy eyeliner, wild mad-composer hair and long bohemian jacket and the calculated thinking behind it. It's possibly the only rock song to contain the deadpan line 'you have made an error during the booking process,' yet has the most adhesive chorus to bury the song deep in to your head.
It's a real showstopper. Which is unfortunate, as it's supposed to get the show going, not close it. Instead he ends, at least before the inevitable encore, with the rousing hymn to environmental issues Canvas Bags from last year's show. This wonderful parody of Bonoesque extravagant rock-star posing to push some worthy issue may be a 'greatest hit', but it's well worth repeating.
Between the two we have some more mightily impressive tracks, including a jaunty ragtime number, whose upbeat style is marvellously at odds with the morbidly depressing lyrics about his abject misery. Minchin can be disturbed, sick and inappropriate, but as long as it's set to great music, it's never really offensive.
A couple of tracks are ill served by their lyrics. One, about kids being too fat takes a long time to build up steam, and there's a segment where he delivers some troubled beat poetry in the spoken word style of someone like The Streets, that makes for a compelling soundscape, but isn't funny in the least.
However, with the tunes, there's always the fine, fine music and the virtuosity of the performance to give him some leeway, not that he always needs it. With stand-up, it's a less forgiving environment, and this still remains his Achilles' heel.
Routines about the bustle of London compared to his native Perth or car stickers are engaging enough but when you see how he handles a gag about illegal minicabs compared the much more efficient, harder-hitting way experienced hand Reginald D Hunter tells a similar joke, you can see how he's not yet up to speed. But he does engage in a surprising fruitful bit of audience banter, which suggests there's more to him than magnificent set pieces. One review last year, which clearly still rankles with Minchin, said that if you took away his grand piano you'd be left with a bog-standard stand-up. Which not only is unduly harsh, ignores the fact that the music is always going to a crucial part of Minchin's act.
While he might not have the novelty value of being the find of the festival this time around, Minchin remains a colossal talent with a fine sense of inappropriate humour and a walking example of how the Fringe can uncover bona fide stars.