Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hang on to your ego - review of Neil Innes

Neil Innes at Arlington Arts Centre, Snelsmore, on Friday, March 4

THE MUSICAL force behind Monty Python and The Rutles, Neil Innes can certainly turn out a good tune, but he also has a great love for words, philosophy, and the power of ideas. All of which feature in his show, A People’s Guide To World Domination and his concept of the Ego Warrior; people cocking a snook and blowing a raspberry at those who try to tell them what to think.

It’s food for thought among the joyful silliness of Innes’ career, laid out here in tantalisingly brief nods to his past life as “The Seventh Python” - a performance of a missing song from Monty Python And The Holy Grail called Run Away, a medley of gems from “The Prefab Four” aka The Rutles, and a blast from the past in the form of some wonders from the earliest days of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, along with some great anecdotes about the trad jazz movement that inspired them.

Railing against cyberspace in favour of “face mail in the meat zone” - ie real life interaction (although I was amused afterwards to discover that he’s a rather prolific and popular Twitterer), Innes’ real bug bear is the poor quality of television today, dismissing it all as “eye candy”. “I used to be eye candy,” he sighed. “Now I’m eye pickle.” That may well be, but having played a part in such seminal televisual classics as Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Do Not Adjust Your Set, it’s fair to say that he’s well placed to comment on the medium. 

Innes’ Ego Warrior movement is a semi-serious idea; the rebellion of the individual against mass media, mass politics and mass thought, complete with its own protest songs, badge and swearing-in ceremony. But really it’s just all a fabulous excuse to play some of his lesser known songs from the Rutland Weekend Television series and other sources, and encourage the audience to join in whenever possible - entirely of their own free will, of course!

Luckily the crowd was as knowledgeable and enthusiastic as required, if a little smallish - possibly as a result as of clashing commitments to comedian Milton Jones, who played The Corn Exchange the same night. They joined in enthusiastically (and reasonably tunefully) whenever encouraged, and although I’m sure there wasn’t a person present who wouldn’t have liked to hear The Rutles’ How Sweet To Be An Idiot (the song that launched Oasis’ career), everyone had a quite spiffing time.
  • First published in the Newbury Weekly News, Thursday, March 10, 2011

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