THE INVISIBLE DOT
HAMMERSMITH APOLLO, LONDON
The most well-known hub for leftfield comedy, underground London venue Invisible Dot celebrated its seventh birthday with seven huge names – an incongruous idea for such an alternative club, as host Alex Horne gleefully pointed out.
There was no sense of competition to get the biggest laughs, except possibly from Simon Amstell, who merrily upstaged everyone by using the event to test out his material as host of next week’s Evening Standard Film Awards.
Amstell’s wilful self-indulgence worked far better than it had any right to, helped by having the best gag of the night: “It’s impossible to imagine a world without Dame Maggie Smith. But soon we’ll have to.”
If Amstell had the most cutting one-liners, then Jon Richardson had the best full routine. Anyone who thought that getting married would curb Richardson’s obsessive worrying can forget it: the idea of actually having to share his Sky+ planner has sent his OCD into overdrive. Frustrating for the 8 Out Of 10 Cats star, perhaps, but a joy for the audience.
Although Invisible Dot is known for avant-garde comedy, the breadth of comedy styles on show meant that if someone wasn’t to your taste then someone suitable would be along shortly.
Mock The Week regular Sara Pascoe opened the show and immediately confessed it was her first gig of the year, but showed no signs of rustiness. She mentioned that she’s only been recognised in public twice, both times “when I wasn’t wearing any pants”. You had to be there for the context of that remark, but Pascoe will surely be besieged by the public when she’s fully attired soon enough.
Harry Hill was flatter than usual, ending on a weak audience singalong of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry. (You really didn’t have to be there.) But the Dot’s most famous alumnus Tim Key soon got proceedings back on track, before Adam Buxton was the ideal finale.
Pointing out the idiocy of YouTube commenters is hardly novel, but nobody does it better than Buxton, who even managed to wring fresh angles on the absurdity of the John Lewis Christmas advert. Given that level of topicality, expect Buxton’s take on the Blurred Lines video any day now. Also expect it to still be wholly compelling.
Here’s to the next seven years.
Does the world need another troubled singer-songwriter? Actually, it might.
With perfectly parted hair and ready smile, Adam French looks like a former boybander ready to inflict his woes about the hardships of touring on everyone. Thankfully, looks are deceiving.
French is from Congleton, just outside of Manchester, and being just outside of everything suits him well. With songs about death, sex in cars and poachers, he’s lyrically a world away from bland acoustic peers.
He needs to ram home his differences more. The set opens with a clutch of routine troubadour moves: Face To Face sounds exactly like Naïve by The Kooks, while drab new single Euthanasia appropriately makes one yearn for death.
But then French starts to bare his fangs, almost literally in his lupine Thom Yorke howling in Wolves.
French’s acerbic wit certainly helps, even during any longeurs in the set. After he announces an old track to little reaction, French sighs: “If you take anything away from tonight, please don’t let it be that.”
He can rest easy. With the second half of his 45-minute show dominated by songs with a sparse beauty reminiscent of Kings Of Convenience, it climaxes with Ivory.
Barely 30 seconds in and the audience suddenly take over the words, singing with a passion rarely seen for anyone yet to release any mainstream singles. French mutters “Fucking beautiful” at the end, and he’s not wrong.
And there are a few other songs that deserve equally lusty singalongs once they too become more familiar. He could yet be blanded out by radio demands. But if he can maintain his sharpness then French is a language that demands to be heard.
BANQUET RECORDS’ NEW SLANG, HIPPODROME, KINGSTON
Launching new album Night Thoughts with a series of in-store peformances, Suede saved their only full-band show for Surrey’s superb independent record shop Banquet’s night at local club The Hippodrome.
It’s a sticky-floored townie club that’s fantastically unsuited to hosting big-name bands, but Banquet’s passion makes it an essential stopover for big album launches – Foals, Catfish And The Bottlemen and Everything Everything have also stopped by to play in deepest stockbroker belt territory.
Having reformed in 2010, Suede stick to their reunited material for the show, only playing songs from Night Thoughts and their other Suede 2.0 album Bloodsports. The gig had been advertised as such, but that doesn’t stop a few casual fans clearly pining for a Beautiful Ones or Animal Nitrate to be lobbed among the recent gems.
The slightly subdued mood means Brett Anderson has to work extra hard, which is always a magnificent sight. Pirouetting, looming into the front rows, generally making a nuisance of himself, Anderson lives every line of the heartfelt It Starts And Ends With You and bleak ballad Tightrope.
He’s too tightly wound to even bother speaking to the crowd until half-an-hour in, when he simply announces “We are Suede, you are Kingston” before continuing to lead a taut band through the properly epic comeback songs.
By the end, Anderson’s shirt billows open. It should be undignified in a man of 47, but there’s too much conviction and soul in both his and his bandmates’ performance that bludgeons the crowd into submitting to the magnificence of new songs such as the soaring Like Kids.
It’s slightly stubborn after the 50 minutes are up not to return for at least one token oldie, but the message is clear: in 2016, this version of Suede have only just begun.
Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn