Mighty Boosh Live 2008

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

What a shambles of half-baked ideas, self-indulgent performances and scrappy structure. But what persuasive charm they have to get away with it… just about.

Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett seem aware that they’re coasting, too, and try to make a virtue of their shabbiness as they cheekily banter with each other, and the audience, in the endearingly old-fashioned front-of-curtain shtick. Behind the silver hotpants and electro-psychedelic sensibilities the Mighty Boosh are the traditional straightman/fool double-act, Morecambe and Wise as dragged through Camden Market.

Plenty of comedians want to be rock stars, and this pair indulge that fantasy more than most, with a full band, The Ungrateful Dead, backing their distinctive ‘crimp’ raps, or performing their bouncy ska-influenced tribute to eels. The difference with the Boosh is that their audience want them to be rock stars, too, so this show is greeted with the mania of idol-worship from their mostly young fans.

They load up with merchandise from the well-stocked stalls, yell out adoring, but distracting, questions to their heroes on stage, and enthusiastically whoop and holler on cue. This two-way love affair affords Noel and Julian a lot of latitude to muck about, and they take full advantage of it. There’s a feeling that more preparation has gone into the impressive set design than any material. Perhaps the drain of Noel’s indie-rock-star lifestyle and Julian’s new fatherhood hasn’t left much time for writing.

So what they offer up is a simple parade of their quirky characters, each doing a flimsy set piece, often cobbled together from old TV scripts, and allowing the fans to tick off the boxes in their I-Spy Book Of Boosh characters. This isn’t the delicately constructed, self-contained world of surreal fantasy they are so good at creating, but a simple roll-call.

Rich Fulcher’s Bob Fossil, in pink legwarmers and three-sizes-too-small powder blue safari shirt leads some daft audience participation; the eight-tentacled Tony Harrison introduces his own chat show before the segment, possibly by design, disintegrates into Fielding bitching about the discomfort of the costume; shamen Naboo and his simian sidekick Bollo become hip-hop playas; and Crackfox is briefly despicable, before being wheeled offstage again.

Between it all, Noel and Julian, nominally ‘in character’ as Vince Noir and Howard Moon, fanny about a bit, living off the love of the audience. But fannying about is what they’re good at, and they are so very, very likeable.

In part two the pair threaten to throw some structure around this nonsense, when Barrett pompously presents a play wot he wrote, further underlining those Eric and Ernie comparisons in which the Boosh can only come out worse. His bleak, futuristic play in which he, modestly, plays a messianic figure in a post-apocalyptic distopia is, naturally enough, undermined by the upbeat and cheeky Noel, who wants to add some disco sparkle to this depressing scenario.

The whole show is very lightweight, though it is often mischievously fun if you’re in on the joke – and never more so than when mocking the Honey Monster for plagiarising their crimp style in the Sugar Puffs adverts. Sometimes a wonderful line will peek through the nonsense, too. Early on, for instance, Fielding pretends he can’t understand the Sheffield accent by explaining, poetically: ‘North of Watford, it all sounds like bubbles to me…’

But such moments of brilliant invention stand out because they are rare. The creative ingenuity which made the Boosh a cult success is mostly put on hold as the pair simply bask in the adulation they’ve built up. They’ve surely earned it, but it would be shame if they rested on their laurels.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Sheffield, October 8, 2008

Review date: 8 Oct 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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