Peter Kay: The Tour That Doesn't Tour Tour

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Peter Kay is a great entertainer, but a mediocre comic. After seven years away, he’s back with the same brand of straightforward home-spun observations he’s always peddled, although they didn’t seem to make quite the same connection with the audience as they once did. Yet by pulling out all the pyrotechnics for a full-on rock and roll finale, he ensured a near-unanimous standing ovation from a sold-out arena. That’s unarguable… and why this comeback tour will gross around £26million in ticket sales alone, let alone the proceeds from the inevitable DVD and well-stocked merchandise stand.

The products on offer there tell their own story. You can still get ‘garlic bread’ T-shirts should you wish, indicating this show isn’t going to generate many new catchphases of its own. Where once he talked about t’internet, now he mentions th’iPod. I’m guessing that didn’t take the full seven years to write.

In fact, much of the writing is pretty lazy. In a long section about TV, he slags off Grand Designs, Supernanny, Secret Millionaire, Embarrassing Bodies, How To Look Good Naked and Come Dine With Me. Looks like he couldn’t even press the remote to change the channel off No 4.

The comments he makes are pretty much what anyone would come up with if asked to describe the show. For instance, Come Dine With Me ‘isn’t a cookery show, it’s all about nosy bastards’ or Supernanny Jo Frost ‘just states the obvious’. Which is rich from someone who’s made a fortune doing just that.

His cosy nostalgia is rife here, as expected, and while he’s describing things we can all relate to, there’s little spin on it. Remember how you used to have to put the immersion on hours before taking a bath? Or how you’d have Imperial Leather soap for special occasions till it was worn down to just the label. Yes, I do remember – but comedy should surely be more than a good memory, laced with trademarks.

Very rarely would Kay recount something specific to him, such as witnessing his dad trap his testicles in a sun lounger, or the time he took an ill-advised swig of Coke from a friend. These were by far the best moments – nice little anecdotes skilfully told, rather than simply repeating shared experiences – and I yearned for more.

The format of the evening, in which we spend a lot of time looking at an empty stage, makes it difficult for Kay to build up momentum. In three hours, he’s on stage for 80 minutes, with two long breaks, one midway through the set and one after opening act Rick Astley sets a cruise-ship lounge atmosphere with a songs including a hideous medley of Manchester acts including New Order, Oasis and – shudder – the Smiths.

But Astley encompasses everything that also epitomises Kay: a ‘guilty pleasure’, combining nostalgia and music. There’s no disguising the fact Kay would rather have been a pop star – as his X-Factor spoof and countless kitsch charity covers prove – though he’d probably be almost as happy running a mobile disco in the Bolton area.

His love of music manifests itself in the second half, firstly when he expresses envy for the Guitar Hero generation when he had to make do with imagining his father’s spade to be his axe; and secondly in his old trick of playing song samples from his Walkman, and describing how he misheard the lyrics.

Well, I say ‘he’. These mondegreens, as they are called, are widely available on the internet. So when he suggests a Sister Sledge actually sing ‘just let me staple the vicar’ in We Are Family, and brings the house down with it, it’s a observation you can grab from Google. Maybe it doesn’t matter – his audience love them even more than they love the old pub gags with which he starts his show, as always. He’s giving the what he wanted.

The encore in which he lives out his rock-star fantasy is a perfect example of this. Of course it’s a brilliant showstopper, because he’s using the music of Queen, and how can that not get an elated reaction? But still there’s still a curmudgeonly argument that wants to urge him: ‘If you want to be a musician, at least learn to play a goddamn instrument.’

However the 750,000 people due to see him on this tour can’t be wrong. Can they?

Review date: 28 Apr 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Manchester AO Arena

What do you think?

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.