The excitement in the air was obvious as we walked into the packed foyer of Costa Hall, or as newly christened by the man of the hour, ‘the Woolshed of Dreams’. Bill Bailey, the much loved stand-up comedian and star of television programs including Black Books and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, was here, in little ol’ Geelong, for his Larks in Transit tour. Known for his quick wit, hilarious story-telling and incredible musical ability, Bailey had the crowd in stitches from start to end.
With a penchant for discussing political issues, it was no surprise that the US Presidential Election and Brexit featured early in Bailey’s sights. As the most topical and pressing matters, they were covered from the moment the comedian walked on stage, and dismissed just as quickly. As a fan of Bailey’s funny-yet-hard-hitting political commentary, this reviewer was initially disappointed that the Trump vs Hillary jokes were over already. However, the show only went upwards from there.
Getting the hard stuff out of the way early meant that Bailey could focus on some key themes throughout the rest of the show, namely happiness and optimism in Western culture. It makes sense, because those two themes don’t share much association with Brexit or the current US President-elect in public commentary today. They do, however, match perfectly with Bailey’s anecdotes and observations from decades on the road. Stories of birdwatching in Indonesia and conversations between two British farmers overheard in the back of a pub are a lot funnier than they appear on paper.
The major stand out by far was Bailey’s musical ability, which was on show for much of the night. An array of instruments and loop stations and even a Theremin were all masterfully played by Bailey at various times, alongside some hilarious explanations of the difference between the minor and major keys and a re-take on the appropriateness of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. Audience participation also took centre stage at times, with Bailey engaging crowd members on songs to laugh and sing to, and provide examples of the kinds of riffs that Geelong metal bands might play.
The audience was at the receiving end of many of Bailey’s witty remarks, naming us as one of the ‘weirdest’ crowds he’d performed for, particularly thanks to our less-than-enthusiastic response to his solution for ISIS.
However, Bailey’s questioning of the audiences’ sometimes ambivalent responses to his jokes follows similar commentary by bands playing Saturday’s A Day on the Green, many of which also reiterated that Geelong generally provides a ‘silent crowd’ to play to. Local gigs often fall into this category, and home games at Kardinia Park are notorious for it. Despite being something we need to address, Bailey declared that he’d ‘love to be back’, and it’s certain that Geelong would welcome him back with open arms to the ‘Woolshed of Dreams’ any day.
Costa Hall, Geelong – November 14
Reviewed by Alex Suwitra