Review of Tim Minchin, Brighton Centre 25/10/21
[Main Photo: Tim Minchin + Band, by Neal Richardson 25/10/21]
I was one of the lucky ones to witness the one-off comical/philosophy/musical/lyricist genius that is Tim Minchin LIVE in Brighton last night (25th Oct), as part of his BACK Again Tour
The man is a force of nature – in a class all of his own. His songs and soliloquies are all breathtaking in their wit and wordplay.
He started, predictably unpredictably by appearing alone at the piano in darkness, and regaling us with his comic-dark song “If this plane goes down”, thus setting the tone for an evening full of musical and comic surprises, that had all of us at turns in hysterics, disbelief (at his lyricism) and tears.
And soliloquies there certainly were! I would estimate that the performance time was equally split between the marvellously-inventive songs (easy to see why he was entrusted with Dahl’s Matilda), and his powerful rhetoric, both of which reward the careful listener (there are a LOT of words) at his unparalleled crafts-person-ship. He delights in provocation, in popping pomposity, hypocrisy, tribalism, religiosity, social media and faux-beliefs along the way, together with much ire at the confirmation biases with which we all inevitably operate, and his main point: how hard it is for any of us to change our minds! But it is all done with such good humour, impishness and well-place self-deprecation that it would be hard to take offence instead of being rightly challenged by his prodding.
The inventive songs came thick and fast (I refer here to a few examples just by the titles I gave them):
Dilemma: the conflict between his piano-playing key signatures and his vocal range… resulting in him playing in F major and singing in F sharp!
Mitsubishi Colt: an astounding bravura display of machine-gun words set over a walking bass in the left hand with a super-fast improvised line in the right hand.
Power of Prayer: A complete, logical destruction of its title, just broiling in acerbic wit. The words filled two pages in the A3 souvenir programme, yet Minchin had no paper aide memoire throughout the gig.
After the first few numbers, the 7-piece band appeared as suddenly as he had, filling the sound out fully in true rock-star fashion. All the players were, of course, top notch and multi-skilled. Once again I have to single-out the drummer/vocalist Brad Webb, who once again absolutely nailed it as the power behind the musical throne.
The philosophical challenges and quips came thick and fast too, like so many fireworks in the Minchin firmament: “The self is an illusion based on fear”; “You need eyebrows to get irony, that’s why seagulls are so literal”; “Churches are like football teams – just with mascots that can fly”; “I’m a proud empiricist” and so forth.
Periodically he treated us to his “Glossary of Terms”, revelling in explaining some of his forthcoming cultural references to younger attendees (“I can’t believe there are fully-grown adults here born since 2000!”).
Then in the best traditions of stagecraft, several times at a high-point of energy and hilarity, he would slay us all with a profound ballad, “The Absence of You” and “I’ll Take Lonely Tonight” being two of such.
The second set opened with a self-declaration of his being uxorious (“I want you to have to go away and look things up”), but with an ode to his wife that was a little more shall we say statistically-based. “She hates it” he admitted.
There was a stunning video projected in sync with his tune about “Leaving L.A.”, followed by his 9-minute mini rock-opera about… “Cheese!”, featuring his self-proclaimed best pun ever written (no spoilers here).
More excellent diatribes followed, winding up to the finale, the autobiographical “I talked too much and stayed too long” – which he declaimed as his preferred epitaph!
The gentle chorale encore, using the whole band to blend stunningly-rich vocal harmonies, belied the truth behind the grit and causticity of the preceding proceedings… actually this whole exercise had been a paean to love.
Minchin’s writing – of both script and lyrics – is incredible; his wordplay as good as anyone who ever lived.
It’s little wonder he has been awarded THREE honorary Doctorates so far.
He is indeed in a top class all of his own. Thrilling.
Neal Richardson, Seaford UK
26th October 2021