Bill Bailey – Limboland at the Vaudeville Theatre
Bill Bailey’s Limboland tour, currently at the Vaudeville Theatre in London, is typically surreal. The comedian has his decidedly middle-class audience in the palm of his hand with an endearing yet caustic two-and-a-half hour show covering everything from religion to war, politics, environmental issues, veganism, the futility of humanity, animals, hard rock and metal, with lots more in between.
The virtuosic multi-instrumentalist peppers his set with self-penned musical commentary on keyboards, a theremin, an Irish bouzouki (accompanied by kick drum), guitars of all shapes and sizes (acoustic, electric, even fashioned from a bible), and a set of cowbells. Musical ingenuity and hilariously twee rhyming diatribes lend magic to what is often pretty heavy subject matter. Indeed, this is Bailey’s inimitable approach: quick-fire juxtapositions, with any semblance of real seriousness dissolved by whimsy, often animal-related. He delights in absurd contrast, dreaming up ISIS-defeating ham prisons, the “agnostic mantis” and death-metal ABBA.
In rare moments his characteristic baffled charm borders on awkward; a brief, uncomfortable foray into gender differences and “my wife” material is unexpectedly lazy. It seems almost symptomatic of an increased self-consciousness – an experimental emphasis on the gauche meta-jokes he’s explored before.
Bailey’s brand of comedy is developing a broader nihilistic streak as he ages. There is a little more vitriol in his hitherto affable, avuncular style, with a preoccupation with mortality and a scathing bewilderment at modern-day culture, its music beautifully described as “sonic piffle”. The slightly weak anecdotal conclusion is disappointing, but it’s swiftly followed up with the Bailey we love bringing out the musical big guns and rocking out to Led Zepellin on cowbells.
On the whole this is a glittering display of consummate talent. Bill Bailey continues to deliver.
Bill Bailey – Limboland is on at the Vaudeville Theatre from 10th January 2015 until 17th January 2016, for further information or to book visit here.