Last night marked the first time of me seeing the legendary comedian, Billy Connolly. I’ve been a fan since I was a young kid and my Dad had a “best of” tape in the car. It seemed like I was never going to see him either. Not because he doesn’t tour (because he does) but the tours would either fall when I had no money or when I was busy (I recall being offered tickets to a Portsmouth date just after I had booked tickets to see Dream Theater in London the same night). So when this tour was announced I figured I would go to Southampton and they wouldn’t sell out immediately. They went on-sale 9am on a Friday, I figured I should be able to book when I finished work. I was wrong; they did sell out super fast. He had 2 shows at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) which were a Wednesday and a Thursday (aka a pain in the arse nights for gigs out of town). There was a Brighton date on a Friday but that would have meant a hotel and suddenly it starts getting rather expensive. One day not long after resigning myself to not seeing him again, one of my co-workers alerted me to the fact he added a third date at the BIC and it was the Friday night. As soon as I heard it, I dropped everything and booked a ticket. I hit the jackpot in terms of seats as I got front row of the balcony and had an aisle seat.
As the day drew nearer, I started to read reviews. Mainly to see if someone could indicate how long he would be on stage for as I had to plan around travel and accepted that leaving early was a possibility. What I saw was a series of mixed reviews and even people complaining that due to hecklers (and people getting up to go to the toilet) – shows had been cut short. I won’t lie, I started to worry. I have been a fan of Billy Connolly since I can remember and didn’t entertain the idea that he wouldn’t be good live. When it comes to reviews though, you can only judge what you see. I hate movie reviews for that very reason. If a film interests me, I’ll go and see it, not if Empire magazine tells me it is good. I knew that I had to forget about these reviews and just go with a clear mind and enjoy the show (or not as the case may be). One review said he was on stage for about 2 hours which I thought was perfect. Start at 8, finish at 10. Sorted. Despite me just saying that you can’t trust reviews, here comes my review! (I don’t do it for a living and therefore don’t think it’s hypocritical for me to say not to trust them, and then write one).
It is difficult to review a comedy show without going through bit by bit which is almost a spoiler alert for anyone going to the Cardiff/Brighton shows. However, I will say that all fears I had that he wouldn’t be good and would leave early were wiped away early on. He addressed the reports saying that he was on stage for 2 hours before he left, and that on stage in a theatre, you can’t hear what the heckles are and so that’s why he usually responds by saying “fuck off” – even if it’s a compliment. Attacking the journalists, he said they would struggle to write home for money they were that shit at writing. It was a blistering start to a 2 hour plus show which was packed full of jokes, stories, rants and everything you would expect from a Billy Connolly show. I’m not over-exaggerating when I say that he was superb. One review suggested that he had “lost touch with the common man” as one of his long jokes involved a very posh hotel in Australia, right by the Sydney Opera House, where the room comes with a butler. I read that in the review and thought “that could be very bad” but it turned out to be the funniest part of the show for me. It isn’t like he is bragging about his life style, and when he does, he makes it funny. “I stay in the 3rd floor for VIP’s....because I’m a very important person” in a mimicking accent. On this topic, he had an off the cuff remark about cigars. “I love smoking cigars and let’s face it...can’t hide the profits forever!” On reflection, I feel that the reviewer who said that Connolly has lost touch with the common man doesn’t like him and was bitter about being assigned to cover him. Either that or was just looking to fill column inches.
I think if I say much more I will be bordering on going through each bit. I will say that sadly I had to leave early as he was on stage for 2hrs 25mins when I had to go to make sure I caught my train. Hopefully I didn’t miss that much and the last thing he discussed made me cry with laughter as well so that’s a plus. This gig was so worth the money and I’m glad I went. I will go again if the chance comes up (although next time, I may book a hotel!)