Dave Hill: Big In Japan

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Dave Hill is living every teenage boy’s dream. He’s in a kick-ass rock band, gigging across Japan in a tour that promises hot babes, drugs by the shovel load, and drunken debauchery.

Only problem is, Hill isn’t a reckless teenage boy but a socially uncomfortable thirtysomething – which means his most daring exploit while on the road with his similarly grown-up bandmates is getting a cheap thrill from the high-tech bidets built into Japanese toilets.

That juxtaposition between rock-god fantasy and mundane reality is at the charming heart of this quirky American comedian’s show, which was performed just twice at the tiny Hen and Chickens theatre in North London.

Hill talks like a frat boy, peppering his speech with phrases such as ‘C’mon, what the fuck, man?’ and boasting that he can’t stop ‘rocking like a motherfucker’. And from the brief riffs he displays here, there’s no disputing his talents on the axe. But his nervous delivery of the rock patois, rasping awkwardly into a mic held too close to his mouth, is delightfully unconvincing.

The result is something like a low-key Spinal Tap, with the focus on the unexpected mundanity of band life, rather than its excesses, amiably subverting rock’s braggadocio.

In this mild-mannered monologue, which Hill promises is 100 per cent true, his four-piece pub rock band, Valley Lodge, fluke success in Japan, where they are idolised ‘pretty much like Princess Diana or something’. On tour there, he’s awed by the futuristic ambience, bizarre TV shows and a beautiful rep from guitar-makers Gibson – but mostly those high-pressure jets in the toilet bowl.

So the tale becomes part ‘look-at-the-crazy-foreigners-and-their-wacky-ways’ travelogue, part self-deprecating anecdote, but delivered with such peculiar modesty and dry wit that ensures even familiar observations a spin of their own. His speech patterns are a great asset, too, full of turns of phase which sound slightly wrong, just enough to give him a distinctive voice without labouring the point.

It’s a shame that Hill’s visit to the UK has been so brief, as a comedy circuit in which David O’Doherty has a successful niche ‘rocking your world in quite a gentle way’ will surely welcome such an appealing cult storyteller.

Review date: 22 Jan 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Hen and Chickens

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