Billy Connolly Live 2010
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a huge, huge Billy Connolly fan. I’ve been watching his videos since I was old enough to understand Glaswegian, I retell his anecdotes with only the flimsiest justification and I once travelled a hundred miles with a hangover so severe I couldn’t swallow in order to see him live. The man is my favourite comic of all time, which is why watching this DVD made me so sad.
From the moment Billy walks onstage wearing spectacles – a first, I believe, for one of his live shows – we are reminded of just how much he has aged. Billy and Albert, his seminal live show at the Royal Albert Hall, is now 23 years old and he was a middle-aged comic on top form then. Old age has, happily, not mellowed Billy at all, but whereas his furious obscenities were once the lubricant for superbly-crafted observational humour they now seem to be the glue holding the show together.
His fury at the ‘beige brigade’ of internet-using, salad buffet-attending sad sacks has segued clumsily from wit to mere geriatric frustration, best illustrated by a ten-minute routine about how SatNavs are often impractical and give advice in a condescending tone of voice. Such middle-of-the-road fare would have been anathema to Billy twenty years ago, but he has become a comfortable (if sweary) establishment figure; his hard-living countercultural icon status is long gone.
This is not to say that the show has nothing to recommend it – there are a few routines which recall Billy’s previous form, and the show ends on a delicious and very memorable anecdote. In fact, it’s a little too memorable – along with another story from earlier in the show, I distinctly remembered hearing it when I saw Billy in concert three years ago last month. Bear in mind that this is a man who once performed two completely different shows on consecutive nights, with no preparation, for a bet – ‘recycled material’ should not be in his dictionary.
I’ve got a host of DVDs and glorious memories of Billy Connolly which go back long before I was born; in the future, I’ll stick to them and eschew any ‘fresh’ offerings. The Big Yin has definitely peaked.