Welcome everybody to another edition of TTWTWB, and it’s time for an annual TTWTWB tradition, our review of the Royal Variety Show. As we’ll have a few videos, there won’t be a theme this week, but I do have something to ask of YOU for next week! As next week we’ll have our end of year review and a preview of next year, I’d like suggestions as to a song to use as the theme for that column! Either one that stood out from a TV show this year or one which sums up a certain part of or a certain show from the year. Give it some thought, the winner gets a mention and a Twitter mention. And maybe something else, we’ll work on that.
So then, Royal Variety. Music, comedy and that. It was nice to see in it’s rightful place on the BBC, advert free and with significantly less editing than when it’s been on ITV. I was immediately unsure though, how good it was going to be with Michael McIntyre as host/Emcee. Despite his burgeoning popularity, he is after all, probably the biggest name in UK comedy at the moment, and he has a massive fan base, McIntyre does commit a cardinal sin for TV comics by going way, way too over the top with a gag and running it into the ground and at the RV where the goal of the Emcee is to be entertaining in segues while at the same time not stealing focus, his habit of getting too hyperactive could have gotten old very quickly. Fortunately my fears were allayed early on with a very funny opening routine that didn’t overrun or get repetitive. I was also amused by the fact Tom Baker was doing the voiceover announcements. It’s marvelous what Matt Lucas and David Walliams can do for a career.
Before Michael McIntyre took the stage for the first time the show was opened by Kylie Minogue performing Better than today.
I wasn’t blown away by the lovely Ms Minogue, but upon reflection she really was the perfect opening act. She is obviously very well known, and so the recognition factor is high to the viewer. She always has an impressive stage show giving a great visual and she always gets great crowd reaction so it’s a great way to warm up the audience. The fact it wasn’t an awe inspiring performance though was a positive thing as it meant it wouldn’t steal focus or make the subsequent performances seem poor in comparison. It was a light, fun performance of a half-decent pop song and set up the evening nicely.
Following McIntyre’s first spell, we were given an unconventional treat of Ray Davies being joined by Paloma Faith for a performance of the classic Lola (L-O-L-A, Lola!).
Despite the bizarre pairing, their voices blended really well, with Paloma’s powerful, jazzy tone being ideal for Lola. As always too, Ray Davies seemed to get a real kick out of performing live, which he seems to revel in and together they produced the first really top performance of the night.
Following another McIntyre segue, we were treated to Britain’s Got Talent winners, Spellbound. They had a tough act to follow given Diversity’s tremendous turn last year, and they really delivered in kind.
The only complaint that could be levied at the production was the flicking of camera angles and a lighting/backdrop that stole focus at times, but the acrobatics were highly impressive and the choreography as tight as a drum. The dire flop that was George Sampson two years ago is being blotted out of memory bit by bit.
Up next was Lee Mack who I have to say was a bit disappointing. I’ve written in the past about the difficulties comedians face at variety shows, given that they only have a very short period of time in which to establish themselves, their comedy and get a routine over with a sufficient punchline to bring at least one big laugh before the end of their stint. It’s a situation that makes comedians hit and miss, and sadly Mack was a bit of a miss. I’m no expert when it comes to stand up comedy, but I remember Lee Mack when he first broke onto the TV scene having a style very similar to that of Tim Vine with quickfire gags. Now he seems to have moved into more an alternative comedy type patter. It just doesn’t work for me, and I know MultiMediaMouth head honcho Eoin is of the same opinion. It was the first of only a few low points for the show, and given his fame, probably the biggest let down.
Next we had Adele singing Rolling in the Deep (a performance I sadly can’t find a video of), which was another great, stripped back, bluesy song coming in the wake of her resurgence in the charts after Rebecca Ferguson covered her version of Dylan’s To Make You Feel My Love on The X Factor. I’m far from a gossipy columnist when it comes to weight and look, but Adele’s weight loss was quite noticeable and changed her appearance a fair amount. As she’s not an image dependent artist though I hope this is just personal choice and not an attempt to fit into the template that certain magazines and newspapers would insist is right. It was another really top class act for the night though, and one which Charles and Camilla seemed to genuinely enjoy judging by their expressions.
The moment that most surprised and delighted me came next, with the appearance of Michael Crawford! I’m an absolutely massive fan of his as an actor, singer and acrobat and so was delighted to learn he is taking up residency in The Wizard of Oz as the Wizard which I will have to go and see. He introduced the cast of The Wizard of Oz, led by Danielle Hope. The youth singers appearing as the Munchkins varied from about 11 down to REALLY tiny, but they were impressively tuneful for a large group of children which can be a bit screechy at the best of times. Danielle was better than I remembered her being on Over the Rainbow where she won the role, when I was quite disappointed she had won over contestants who had impressed me more, but she has really blossomed as a singer and performer since.
Oh yeah, and Toto was CUTE!
Our second low point of the night followed in the inherently nasty form of N-Dubz. Why they were even approached for the show pretty much baffles my mind, given their behavior in the past. The performance was alright, but nothing too impressive and I think we can just all be thankful they didn’t grab headlines with any more uncouth actions.
That was though immediately followed by a spectacular performance giving us another highlight for the evening. Russell Watson had an incredible return to form after his unfortunate and very forgettable soiree into mainstream singing a couple of years ago. Sadly I was unable to find a video of this either, but Watson, singing a piece from La Forza Del Destino while accompanied by dancers from the Royal Ballet. It was an incredibly atmospheric and dramatic combination and one which really blew me away. Top marks all round.
That was ably followed up by the lovely Sarah Millican who delivered the funniest material of the night. Indisputably the current Queen of UK Comedy, she is that rarest thing, a comedian (ienne?) who makes me laugh every time I see her perform. As discussed before, impressing at the RV is tough for a comedian, and she was smack on the money, letting her jokes and style speak for themselves. Highly entertaining.
Susan Boyle was up next, who will probably be a shoo-in for RV regular for as long as her popularity lasts (which I presume it will for a long time). She was good as always performing Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, a song which has departed so much from it’s originally intended subject (heroin addiction) it’s bizarrely funny. I could have really done without the choirboy accompaniment though.
Another comedian followed that in the shape of Jack Whitehall, who I find very funny when he’s on form, but he too can be guilty of going over the top in his delivery. Thankfully he was very good at the Palladium, only second in comedy terms to Ms Millican. He was witty, clever and did a lot to ensure his place, usurping Russell Howard as the top young comedian in the country.
Cheryl Cole performed her song The Flood (not to be confused with Take That’s The Flood) and didn’t disappoint. Cheryl is never going to deliver an incredible vocal, but she filled the same role as Kylie, only with the name recognition at a higher point currently. it was nice enough and she did at least sing live, given complaints about her miming on The X Factor.
Now we came to the point I was dreading writing about…the performance by The Chelsea Pensioners. Now this comedy/musical/whatever it was supposed to be…I’m not quite sure what role it filled, and it puts me in the difficult position where I could perhaps be seen to be bashing said Chelsea Pensioners. I’ll just go on record, that is absolutely not the case. However, whatever the purpose of this act, it didn’t entertain or amuse, but I guess it fits the bill on a Variety show.
However, sweeping after that was probably the most impressive act of the evening, another one I sadly could not find footage of. Daniel Whiston of Dancing on Ice fame took the stage with an awe-inspiring combination of skating (on roller blades) and the Cirque-Du-Soleil ribbons to Kissing You by Des’ree, which just happens to be one of my favourite songs. If I can find video of this by next week, I’ll definitely post it.
Our penultimate comedian of the night was Micky Flanagan who also did a lot to raise his stock. With Mock the Week appearances and most recently a spot on Have I Got News for You, he’s currently turning into one of the hottest acts in the country and his routine raised a number of big laughs from the audience at the Palladium. A spot on Live at the Apollo and more mainstream acceptance should follow.
Then we had the longest performance of the night with an incredible medley from Les Miserables by the current cast, topped off by the current Jean Valjean singing Bring Him Home with 3 former leads from the show. I know not everybody is as enthusiastic about musicals as I am, but I fully recommend watching the whole medley here. It is breathtaking.
The penultimate musical performance of the night was Jamie Cullum with Rumer singing a favourite song of mine, Elton John’s Tiny Dancer. I was delighted to see that song performed given that it’s much lesser known than a lot of Elton John’s discography, and it was a well harmonized and really quite pleasing duet.
Our final comedian was next in what amounted to a very disappointing few minutes from John Bishop. Compared to the previous 3 comedians who had been lively and sparking, his material seemed very lackluster and delivered with very little enthusiasm. On the whole it was a good night for the RV comedians, but they were book ended by sub-par showings from the two,, arguably, best known of the night.
The headline act for the night was Take That who gave us two songs from their current album and were a fantastic live act as always. The Flood is a cracking pop song, although most of the attention was taken by the nearly nude dancers recreating the poses on the cover of the aforementioned album. It was a very peculiar stage show, that thankfully was cleared for the second song, an incredibly energetic version of SOS. It was a great choice to finish with the energy really leaving the crowd with a climactic, adrenaline soaked finale.
But those events are in the past and it’s time to look to the future! That future being this week’s television. Let’s see what the schedules have in store!
We kick off our highlights with the return of Monkey Life on Five. It’s not the most in depth show and nor it is going to win any awards for originality, but hey, it’s monkeys on television and who doesn’t love that!?
Our other highlight of the week is Close Up with Martin Scorsese, the first episode in a series wherein young artists around the world get a chance to observe and learn from masters of their respective industries and crafts. In this particular edition Argentinian film maker Celina Murga shadows Scorsese, which is an incredible opportunity for any person in the film industry. I’m always looking for and praising shows where new talent is showcased and this is EXACTLY what I meant, albeit at the very highest end of the scale. With the incredible amount of programming hours Channel 4 will have available with the end of Big Brother and E4’s airing of Friends I hope to see a lot more falling into this category.
So just the one lowlight for the week, the extremely unwelcome return of How I Met Your Mother. Essentially if Neil Patrick Harris is in something, I’ll hate it. It’s smug, self-aggrandizing and self-satisfied comedy with very few, if any, laughs. Ugh.
So that’s me for the week! Remember to send me your song suggestions for next week either in the comments below or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep your eyes peeled for a lot of great new content on the site including our now blossoming Film section and a new Game Show Garbage. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisNelsonMMM and the site @MultiMediaMouth and in the mean time, remember to stay safe.