It probably wasn’t a great idea to come out to this when we were supposed to be sorting out the new flat, but hey, Dylan Moran is top of the bill and when did we last get the chance to see him in a gig as intimate as The Stand? So off we troop, early enough to get seats at the front and a couple of drinks later, the event kicks off.
JoJo Sutherland is our host for the evening and she’s brash, confident, good at milking the crowds for material. She swigs at a pint all the way through and swears enough to make the proverbial navvy blush and then introduces the first act of the evening.
Eleanor Morton stumbles on stage holding a ukele and delivers a great set that’s built around her supposed inability to communicate with others. It’s toe-curling stuff, expertly put together, though it’s clearly not to everyone’s taste – a couple sitting across the stage from us don’t crack a smile throughout. This is Marmite comedy, you’ll either love it or hate it and I fell into the first category. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of Eleanor.
Next up is Ally Houston, who could be Eleanor’s perfect partner, judging by the persona he adopts, a gormless social misfit with a guitar, some truly awful lyrics and (disturbingly) a plastic doll sellotaped around his waist, to whom he dedicates a couple of songs. Once again, the couple opposite us clearly aren’t getting the jokes at all, but Houston is walking a tricky comedy tightrope and is surely a name to watch in the future.
I felt a bit sorry for Chris Martin (not that one!) who after all the weirdness somehow came across as a bit ‘safe.’ He was perfectly pleasant and delivered his routine with confidence, but it all felt a little too familiar and, dare I say it, not as edgy as we might have expected at this venue.
And then it was time for the headline act and out shambled Dylan Moran, a little chunkier than I remembered him (aren’t we all?) and still maintaining the persona of a man who has had a few too many red wines before stepping onto the stage. I’ve never been sure if that’s just an act he puts on or whether it’s genuine (he was certainly drinking red wine throughout this performance) but I do fondly remember being in stitches at some of his earlier appearances and I’m also acutely aware that tonight, he seemed unfocused and sloppy and (dare I say it?) slightly out of tune with contemporary tastes. A routine about the ‘Asian lady inside him’ felt uncomfortably like borderline racism and his long-winded tirade about the pitfalls of buying a decent cup of coffee in Starbucks seemed frankly, too easy a target. That said, there were a few moments here, when you briefly glimpsed the brilliant raconteur he once was and I’m sure, could be again. If appearing at The Stand is a prelude to him returning to a tour of bigger venues, then he really needs to hone his material more carefully,jettison anything that comes across as lazy and concentrate on the surreal observations that have always been his greatest strength.
An interesting night and one in which the newer names shone brighter than the actual ‘star’ of the show.