Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Sage Gateshead, November 15 2016
There are few more joyful things than watching what are ostensibly adults, mucking about on a stage and having what is clearly a right old lark. Some of the faces may be different these days (though there are several recidivists present), but the intent is the same as it always was: the joyous silly mix of the end of the pier, the music hall and the bookish. My only minor dsappointment is that Neil Innes isn’t involved, but you can’t have it all.
Most of the vocal duties are handled by the estimable Michael Livesey who does a more than adequate job of channeling the late and much missed Ginger Geezer Stanshall himself. It’s most notable in spoken-word passages in songs like My Pink Half of the Drainpipe and Rhinocratic Oaths, both of which are superb. He even throws some uke into Urban Spaceman when it gets played later.
The setlist is mostly as you’d expect, with a mix of old favourites, and lots of general mucking about, which is exactly what we came for. What is noticeable is that not very many in the room are younger than me. There is a very definite pattern in the audience demography, though those who are good at outliving other people are certainly not dampened in their collective enthusiasm.
They even manage to do one of my most favourite songs, Mr Apollo, which contains possibly the single greatest couplet ever committed to the annals of popular music:
“Five years ago, I was a four stone apology. Today, I am two separate gorillas! “
So, by that point, if they had done nothing else, I’d have left a happy chap! But no, this was only towards the end of the first half, and there was more to come in the second half.
After the interval, the fun resumes, and we get treats like Hunting Tigers, which is a good thing seeing as that’s what’s on the tour t-shirt I bought. Sam Spoons crouches behind mock jungle in a pith helmet brandishing what, to the untrained eye, looks like a blunderbuss, which is another bonus. We also get Keynsham, which is probably the only song in history to contain the word hexachlorophene, and is rather fantastic, actually. And they couldn’t not play the aforementioned Urban Spaceman.
The encore (though the band don’t go off, but tell us these are the last two numbers) are the Stanshall number Terry Keeps His Clips On (another channeling moment for Livesey) and Monster Mash. And with that, they’re gone.
It’s not likely we’ll get the chance to enjoy this kind of silliness for too much longer: Vernon Dudley Bohay Nowell is in his 80s now, and Sam Spoons isn’t too far behind. But, as others have said, it’s good to have something still around that manages to be both clever and silly, and thumbs its nose at the forces of conformity and anti-intellectualism that seem to be on the rise right now. Hold on to stuff like this, it’s important, and we’ll need it in the times ahead.
Set list : highlights
n.b. : I wasn’t keeping exhaustive notes (though I did get a pic of the first half setlist on the stage — up to Ginger Geezer), so can’t remember everything.
Death Cab for Cutie
Look Out There’s A Monster Coming
Look at Me, I’m Mr Wonderful
Little Sir Echo
My Pink Half of the Drainpipe
Falling in Love Again
Mr Slaters Parrot
The Intro & The Outro
Canyons of Your Mind
Terry Keeps His Clips On