Tim Minchin – Sydney Opera House

The more astute of you will have noticed that I have already written about Tim Minchin, and I’m not one for repetition. However, I think this gig deserves to be mentioned for a number of reasons.

  1. It’s was my first gig in the Southern Hemisphere, that counts for something, right?
  2. It was at (well, outside) the Sydney Opera House
  3. To quote Loki, ‘I do what I want’

Now that’s sorted, onto the actual gig. As I said, it was my first gig in the southern hemisphere, and, more accurately, Australia. I bought the tickets to Tim Minchin on the steps before it was confirmed that I was going to Aus, but who cares? I’m here now, and I got to see an excellent gig. As mentioned in the previous Minchin post I’ve never actually been to a straight-up comedy gig of his, which is weird but also not. So, since about 2005ish, his debut at the Melbourne and Edinburgh fringe, Minchin has been described as a musical comedian. Which, I do agree, he was. But that wasn’t his first calling. Before making it big he wrote a couple of songs for a number of plays, did a bit of acting, just dabbling in the area we know as ‘performing arts’.

Since his success from ’09 onwards he’s been increasingly (in my opinion) typecast as ‘that funny guy that makes fun of religions and plays the piano’, which is all well and good. It does seem to me that Minchin has been trying to break out of that mold though. For example, he wrote the music for Matilda – which went on to win about 30 different awards, including a couple of Tonys and Laurence Olivier – has played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, and now he’s writing another musical (Stage adaption of Groundhog Day).

What has convinced me of his apparent effort to move away from his comedic alter-ego, and into the realms of his clever, articulate and deep self have been his recent gigs, especially this most recent one. Yes, he did play his classics, like Prejudice and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nerd, and of course, the very serious Cheese. But he also played a lot of his songs that aren’t comedic, which is so nice because he is a fantastic songwriter, and he should be appreciated for his more serious songs as well as his comedy. He played a range of songs, including Drowned – a personal favorite of mine. And Seeing You, which is a song from the Groundhog Day musical he’s providing the music for. Both of these are excellent examples of his deep writing.

The highlight for me was not the main body of the show, but the encore. Before Minchin left the stage for the first time he introduced his last song (Darkside) as ‘the last song we’ll play before we go and the come back on again, because of the French you will shout’, which is my preferred way to introduce the encore, rather than pretending it’s spontaneous, as many people do, both comedians and musicians. (I’m looking at you Bill Bailey. THREE ENCORES?! Hmm)

ANYWAY, Minchin came back on stage – as promised – as the audience were shouting ‘French’ at the top of their lungs. He began by talking about his family, mentioning that music plagues his family like a disease, and rattled off a list of names of brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins and aunts that were all musically persuaded.

He then started introducing a song which I had heard of before, so naturally, I was excited. It was called Harbor Lights, and he explained that it was written by his uncle, Jim Fisher. He started singing, and as he got halfway through the first verse he was joined, on stage, by a Mr.Jim Fisher, and they sung it as a duet. It was really beautiful, and very different to Minchin’s style. Fisher is a bluegrass singer, and the combination of his battered old guitar and the piano was really something else. If that wasn’t enough, he was then joined by his cousin, Tom, on electric guitar, his brother Dan, on acoustic guitar, who then sung another verse together. THEN, two violinists enter stage left, Tim’s cousins Lucy and Susie, and two singers, his sisters Kate and Mel. And the whole family starts singing this beautiful song together. It was such an amazing moment, and a wonderful thing to watch.

They then played a cover of the Rolling Stone’s Shine a Light, with Dan taking the lead. I’ve taken some VERY amateur clips of both of the above songs, the footage doesn’t do them justice, but they’re here and here if you want to see them.

To be able to hoist the majority of your family onstage for an audience of 700ish people, and play two beautiful, poignant songs, and to pull them off harmoniously is no mean feat. To see the whole thing in action was indescribable.

Now, have some pictures. (I was far away, and being primarily a pianist, Minchin doesn’t move around a lot, those are my excuses this week) I’ve also re-edited a couple of older pics, so you can have those for good behavior. Oh, and I did some art of Tim Minchin’s face. I’m not really sure why.

Tall Tales

On the last Wednesday of every other month there is a comedy/story telling event in Kilburn, called ‘Tall Tales’. I first head about this via the John Finnemore fandom last year. Since then, I’ve tried to go to every show, as it’s been thoroughly enjoyable every time.

For those who don’t know, Finnemore is a radio comedy writer. He’s the brains behind the hit sit-com, ‘Cabin Pressure‘ (which is ending this Christmas…I don’t think a radio show has made me this emotional since the finale of Bleak Expectations in 2012).  Finnemore has his own sketch show on BBC, ‘John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme‘, which you could probably  still catch on iplayer if you’re quick. As well as his own shows he has written for ‘That Mitchell and Webb Sound’ (the radio -and orginal – version of ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’)  ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ (the the TV version of ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’), ‘The Now Show’ ‘Miranda’ (as well as acting in it) and other radio shows (probably).

Finnemore goes to most of the Tall Tales nights, except when he’s traveling round Europe on a bike, which seems to be a common habit of his. As well as Finnemore, there are a number of other brilliantly funny people that regularly come to Tall Tales. The host is a guy called Robert Hudson. Robert starts every show by taking to the stage, introducing the guests, and telling a story. However, the first few times I went I fell into his trap. He starts each story so seamlessly, for the first half, you don’t realise it’s a story, you just think it’s a strange anecdote he’s telling, until, invariably, he mentions something so implausible you realise you’ve been duped. Robert is a marvelous story-teller, and I can see why he started the night.

As well as the two mentioned above, there are other regular guest. One of my favorite is Gareth Edwards (and not just because he was the producer of Bleak Expectations. Well, maybe a bit because of that). Edwards does something different every time, but the last couple of times I’ve seen him he’s told us a story about his young son, both of which have been very funny and believable.

What I’m trying to say in this post, is if you live in or around London, are a fan of comedy – especially radio comedy – you should make the effort to go to one of these shows. Most of the material is still in the baby steps, some will make it on air, in a polished version, and some won’t. Either way it’s good place to be.

Here are some photos I’ve collected over the months:

Tim Minchin – Koko

Ok, so let’s start with an old gig, from about a year ago. (Hopefully I’ll get more recent gigs up, this is just a test drive, as it were)

Tim Minchin announced he was doing the Camden gig only two weeks before it happened, which isn’t that long. It was announced at the beginning of December, and the gig was set for the 19th. Nearing Christmas, I was scraping the barrel for money, however, it’s so rare that Tim does gigs in the UK now, especially solo shows, that I thought it would be worth it.

And was it? Of course. However, I’m a huge fan, so there is a little bias here.

For those that have never been to Koko I urge you to go. I know it’s  NME’s venue of choice, and it is therefore often filled with wannabe hipsters who are all into a blend of electro-synth-indie-hop that is too cool to dance to. Looking beyond this, if there’s a band you like playing there I recommend you go. It used to be a theater, and is still decked out like one. There is a fantastic feeling of highbrow theater still clinging to the red velvet upholstery, along with the smell of beer and teenage sweat.

The support act were a duo called Bitter Ruin. Two singers Georgia Train and Ben Richards. They came on stage, leaning heavily on blue and purple lighting (which I hate, as my bridge cannot handle blue light, at all) which always  gives the impression of a small band at a small venue. The performance itself was very good. Train has a fantastic voice, and Richards can effortlessly harmonise with it.

The main act itself, Mr.Minchin, was brilliant. It could have been a disappointment to anyone expecting a night of stand up comedy with a few funny songs thrown in. The night’s proceeds went to Medicins Sans Frontieres, which is a fantastic cause. Tim did a mix of songs, dipping into a couple of hits that his comedy fans would at least know, which included  Cheese and Woody Allen Jesus. The rest of his set was less based on comedy, and he put a strong focus on his gentler and more emotional songs, such as Drowned, Beauty and a brand new song ‘seeing you for the first time’.

There was an element of self indulgence, and though he did interact with the audience he also broke off to talk to his wife who was apparently watching from one of the VIP boxes left over from the theater days. To be fair to them both, Tim mentioned that this was his last gig in the UK for a while, as the family were moving back to Aus, so we can’t be too harsh on them.

The gig was wonderful, all the covers were brilliantly done, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ was fantastic, and Tim roped Georgia from Bitter Ruin to do Hallelujah with him for his second encore, which was good, although not my favorite version of the song by a long way. His cover ‘feel like going home‘ and his version of ‘when I grow up‘ (from the Matilda musical he scored) were -and still are – favorites of mine.

I will be quiet now. Too much talking. Here are some (hopefully pretty) pictures.

Enjoy.