Peter Kay’s “The Tour That Doesn’t Tour… Now On Tour” at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast.
(Tuesday 8th February 2011)
Following his successful five-night, sold-out run in December 2010, Peter Kay made a triumphant return to the Odyssey Arena for another multiple night engagement in which he paid homage to his Lancashire-Tyrone familial roots, strict schooling and eternal ‘everyman’ status in the eyes of his audience. Taking place in the middle of a record-breaking 111-date UK tour, Kay’s performance at the Odyssey was marked by the same conversational comedy and slapstick physicality that originally made him a cult television icon in the early 2000’s before he became the nation’s biggest-selling stand-up act. For the majority of the two-hour show, the stage featured nothing more than a lit stairwell and a single stool, indicating Kay’s self-awareness of the command he so easily and so effortlessly holds over his audience in every city.
The lengthy show opened with Kay emerging from beneath the stage and turning the camera onto his audience, a common practice in his live performances, before launching into an endless, directionless and dizzying series of rants about all the facets of his everyday life. It is this seemingly unscripted, but in fact carefully calculated, approach to comedy that makes Kay such a likeable performer. In the first act alone, he won over the crowd with his infallible imitation of Northern Irish accents before delving into childhood memories of his mother’s ration-controlled attitude towards soap. As Kay so humourously illustrated, “Imperial Leather was for Christmas Eve only”. Following this, he addressed current cultural trends, specifically reality television’s continued domination over the general public, and advancements in digital music, or as his “Nan” would call it, in “thigh-pods”. There was certainly an initial period of adjustment for the audience as they struggled to keep up with the frequent, radical changes in topic and tone, however, judging by their reaction when Kay called for an interval, there was a sense that the comedian had captured their full attention and he was not at all willing to let it go.
For the second act, Kay derived much of the applause from his self-deprecating attitude towards his weight and body figure. Making repeated references to his “veranda over the toy shop”, Kay drew big laughs for his commentary on the nation’s obsession with fitness regimes and body image. Ever cautious not to exhaust the current hot topic of choice, Kay quickly moved onto his teenage experiences at a Catholic school where the nuns covered messes with sawdust and used shatterproof rulers as weapons. It became clear that neither linear pattern nor coherent explanations were needed from Kay to evoke a raptuorous reception from every person in attendance. Whatever the joke and whatever the subject matter, the end result was always the audience wanting more. Kay brought the second act to a close with a well-received sketch focused on the various innuendos to be found in contemporary music, and while this risked bordering on infantile and repetitive, Kay brought it to an abrupt finish, once again leaving the crowd hungering for more show-time. Not disappointing, Kay scored what was the biggest reception of the entire evening when he returned to the stage for a musical encore, during which he recalled earlier gags about dressing up as Freddy Mercury in his mother’s leotard and using his father’s backyard shovel as an electric guitar.
Leading the arena in a medley of songs, ranging from “(Is This The Way To) Amarillo” to “We Are The Champions”, it was Kay’s shamelessness and unwaveringly energetic presence that: made the performance a success; explained why this is became a record-breaking tour in the first place; and ensured that Kay will have an enthusiastic, loyal audience waiting for him if and when he should decide to return to the city.