Death Metal mnemonics, Downton Abbey Jamaican dub reggae & Match of the Day theme as a Jewish Folk song: Bill Bailey Qualmpeddler review, Bristol Hippodrome, 26th September. By Tom Williams.
Bill Bailey has reservations about many parts of life in 2013, such as conflicting politics, changing language and celebrity ‘news.’ He tells us all about them in his current tour: Qualmpeddler. After starting the show with some material about the West Country and how its accent has zero authority, he then moved onto explaining his qualms with 21st Century Britain. He first talked about how celebrities glorify ignorance by not seeming to care when they make fools of themselves. He explained this using the example of Celebrity Big Brother winner Chantelle Houghton saying “I thought the sun and the moon were the same thing…turns out they’re not.” Moving on from the world of celebrity, he talked about how he feels that abbreviations are overused, especially how internet slang is now finding its way into real life conversations. His one exception to this was the use of mnemonics: this led to an impromptu death metal song using the method used to remember the points on a compass. The stand-up throughout the show saw him covering all these topics in his own unique style that incorporates his clever wit and use of parody, but at the same time raising some very good points, all of which were brought home with his use of an unlit pipe. This especially was seen in his section on the state of British politics where he compared UKIP a comedy troupe of upper class men at a golf club bar and then individually ridiculed Nick Clegg’s inability to be taken seriously by anyone, Ed Miliband for being boring and David Cameron for being, well David Cameron. This included the greatest insult I’ve heard anyone use by calling Mr Cameron a “Man Ferret.”
Music is a very integral part of the Bill Bailey experience and Qualmpeddler does not disappoint. From small snippets of music used to compare David Cameron visiting a hospital to a 1920s silent movie villain, to a Jewish Folk song version of the Match of the Day theme song all the songs were brilliant. In an attempt to bring excitement to Downton Abbey (in which he said you could see moss growing on a footman in real time) he created a Jamaican dub reggae style version of the theme song, complete with a very Monty Python style cartoon in the background depicting a Rastafarian footman working at the abbey. Continuing in the vein of popularising something that is seen as stuffy and unpopular with young people, he also wrote a dub step (or as he called it “Nun Step”) version of Jerusalem in order to make the church more appealing, ending the song with #JustPrayin’. My personal favourite song of the night was a West Country style death metal song entitled “Ripped Apart by Badgers,” complete with mock CCTV footage showing a group of badgers looting a high street shop. These were some of the funniest songs Bill Bailey has ever written and really show off his immense musical talent being able to write so many varied songs with brilliantly satirical and funny lyrics.
But it wasn’t just all jokes and music, there were a couple of important issues surrounding Bill Bailey’s well documented love of animals. This is part of what made the show so memorable for me. When the first half ended, a short film was shown about the charity BARC which aims to help dogs living on the streets of Bali and at the very end a video was shown of Bill and his touring crew releasing an owl that they rescued from a restaurant in China. This final video made the entire crowd leave with a warm feeling in their hearts knowing that what they had just seen was both very funny and a well put together show.
With every new tour Bill Bailey gets better and better musically and comically, whilst using his familiar style that aims to inform as well as entertain. Qualmpeddler is Bill Bailey at his very best as he makes topics that easily could have come across as one man whining about the world changing around him sound articulate, witty and thoughtful.
“Bill Bailey: Qualmpeddler Live” will be available to buy on November 18th.
I’ve also included a link to BARC’s website should anyone be interested in finding out more about their work. http://www.balidogrefuge.com