Bill Bailey: Part Troll

Note: This review is from 2003

Review by Steve Bennett

To complain that Bill Bailey's show is aimless seems as pointless as criticising the rain for being wet or the grass for being green.

That's just what he is: a rambling, Dazed and Confused drifter for whom the meandering journey is far more important than any destination.

But this year, the waffle seems more waffly, the amusing asides fewer and less funny. Could it be that Edinburgh's favourite village idiot is simply treading water?

Including fragments of old shows isn't a good sign - short routines about being a nutter magnet or claiming to be Aled Jones after it all went horribly wrong, for example. Neither is pointing out the idiocy of the American immigration cards that ask: "Are you a terrorist?" - sheer hackery that we don't expect from such a talent.

Elsewhere, this reformed scrumper lectures on Eastern religions and philosophies, his travels around Asia or the finer points of Lord of the Rings like a tedious hippy, leaving yawning gaps between the jokes.

But alongside the mildly amusing asides, he'll suddenly conjure up a fantastic line, and all is forgiven again. "There's more evil in the charts than in an Al Qaeda suggestion box," he announces at one point.

Of course, it's the music that maketh this man, and Bailey's songs remain fantastic: Zip-a-di-do-dah as performed by Portishead, a rave version of the BBC News theme and an expose of how The Edge's guitar would be sound without the aid of U2's effects pedal.

Then there's an ill-meaning tribute to Michael Bolton, and a Tom Waits parody that's impressive, rather than funny. The show-stopper, though, is the drum and bass remix of George Bush's speeches, again dusted down from earlier shows - but a brilliant crowd-pleaser.

It meant his fans didn't go away disappointed, enthusiastically welcoming their idol back for a obviously expected encore and a half.

But the show essentially felt like little more than a teasing reminder of what Bailey is capable; an appetiser rather than a rich, satisfying main course.

Review date: 1 Jan 2003
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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