Adam Hills, King’s Theatre, 20th March 2016

So Glasgow has a comedy festival every year that I haven’t really ever taken advantage of. I watch stand-up shows a lot on tv, but haven’t really seen many live. Bill Bailey a good few years ago. Simon Amstell last year. I think that’s it.

I hadn’t actually looked into the programme this year, but I’ve been a fan of Adam Hills since I saw him on Mock the Week in about 2008 or 2009 I think, then followed his Last Leg programmes since the 2012 Paralympics. I didn’t even know he did much stand-up these days, but when I saw a Glasgow date as part of his tour / the Comedy Festival I thought it was about time I got out and experienced live comedy again.

The evening didn’t start well when I completely failed to find the car park nearest the theatre, ended up back on the motorway and had to wind my way back through A GAZILLION traffic lights to find another place to park, then leg it the whole way along Sauchiehall Street.  The ticket said it was a 7.30pm start, with a support act, so I figured it would be ok if I was a tiny bit late.  I got there bang on 7.30pm, rushed into my seat and Adam Hills appeared on the stage a moment later.  I thought he might be introducing the support, but it turned out there was no support and the show was starting.

Well I say the show was starting. I’m not sure the show ever started. Hills does a fair amount of audience interaction, invites contributions and plays around with that for a while at the beginning of his shows.  The Glasgow crowd were so involved, inspiring Hills to run away with himself and tell stories about previous visits to Glasgow, experiences of the Edinburgh festival, none of which seemed to be planned, but were hilarious none the less.  He kept saying, in fits of laughter, “the show hasn’t even started yet!” and trying to get going, but another comment would inspire another anecdote or story or joke and it would take off from there.

My favourite was the 71 year old lady in the front row, whose 67 year old self-proclaimed “toy boy” shared his home-made viagra alternative, to which she spryly started climbing on to the stage to whisper in Adam Hills ear, “and he’s a minister too!”. Hills almost ended himself, I thought he was going to hand her the mic to drop, and exit stage left as nothing could top that. She is my new hero, I want to be exactly her when I’m 71. Even better, I discovered afterwards they are both on Twitter. Heroes.

I’ve seen a few interviews with Adam Hills where they describe him as “the nicest man in comedy”. He can certainly claim that title based on last night, when he presented a group who had travelled all the way from Dingwall with a bottle of Prosecco for their efforts, checked that a couple who had tweeted about almost missing the show had actually made it, and checked that the wheelchair users in the restricted view area could see the screen before he played a video.  It was all sincere, genuine and somehow also funny. Especially him trying to establish where the hell Dingwall was and why for them it was a toss-up between his show and an open-top bus parade.

Crap photo but I didn’t want to hold my phone up during the show, tried to sneak a quick shot just as he returned after the interval

In the second half, after a good amount of time reading out audience tweets, which led to more stories, he was finally able to get on with the show proper.  That’s not to say all that preceded this wasn’t funny, it most definitely was. He is sharp and quick to respond to comments, is a natural story-teller, engages the audience even when addressing a particular person and he never let any of the contributors/hecklers dominate or take him off his topic too much. Each story was kind of related in a way that still made sense, or made a point. I genuinely smiled the whole way through, laughed out loud frequently and had tears running down my cheek on more than one occasion.

I hope he hadn’t prepared hours of scripted material because it seemed like he only got to perform a fraction of it, but what he did fit in was brilliant, well observed, energetic and at times edgy.

Anything that referenced The Last Leg got rapturous applause, I hadn’t realised it had gotten so mainstream. However we also managed to create a new catch-phrase, so that’s an acheivement.

At the end, which I won’t go into in case you see the show (and you should) he explained that at each show he collects for a local charity, and would be out in the foyer with a bucket in case anyone wanted to donate or say hello. Unfortunately the theatre staff tried to usher us all out the side exits, so a lot of people drifted away into the night without being able to donate. I sidled my way round the back, got shoved out a different side exit, but found a bunch of folk who were trying to get back in the front.  Turned out there was quite a crowd gathered trying to get back in, so I joined them.  It also turned out that Hills was meeting and greeting everyone, posing for photos etc.  So we waited patiently.


When it was my turn I asked him to sign my ticket (message is a reference to the finale of the show) and I managed to have a quick chat with him about disability jokes.  I explained where I worked (a university disability service, which he seemed genuinely interested in) and that were are being moved into an open-plan office with other teams, one of our first reactions was “shit, we won’t be able to make disability jokes any more!” Of course we don’t joke in a nasty way, but it’s that gallows humour thing, when you deal with a serious topic every day you have to have some kind of outlet. He said he understood, and that people would be shocked at some of the things they come out with in the Last Leg office. So I thanked him for making disability jokes ok.  He posed for a photo (again, the bathrobe  is due to the finale) and I shook his hand.  He thanked me for coming and waiting, I thought, no thank you for spending ages in a draughty foyer dressed only in a bathrobe, thousands of miles from home. He was so nice and sweet and awesome.

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I have GOT to get a better photo face

So it was a chaotic, crazy, hilarious night, I couldn’t even recount what half of the show was about, but if you get the chance to see him live, please do, it is bound to be an experience, and an extraordinarily good one at that.

Mystery Jets, Art School, 20th February 2016

We’ve been waiting aaaaaaaaaaages for something from the Mystery Jets, it’s been 4 years since their last record and to be honest I had been fearing the worst thinking the next announcement would be about a break-up. But hip hip hooray out of the blue we get an announcement about an album and a smattering of tour dates.

I was then a bit apprehensive about what the new offering would be, the Mystery Jets have taken a very different tone and feel with each album and I just hoped that they wouldn’t decide to go down the electronic route (ewwwww).  But once I got hold of the album “Curve of the Earth” – available in all good record shops etc etc I was extremely pleased to find that it a) was hardly electronic at all, and b) was really good. Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate a new album, especially from a familiar band and with a new sound, but from first listen I knew I was going to like it.  It was another new-ish direction, but it was a road that made sense for the Mystery Jets. It is less poppy, more mature with a broader, deeper texture than previous records. After listening a few times I really got the sense of it being a kind of concept album, there are strong coherent themes that run though the whole record and after a while I found it difficult to listen to 1 song in isolation, it made much more sense as a whole, as a complete story.

I snapped up a ticket to the Glasgow gig, a bit disappointed that they were playing one of the smaller venues in Glasgow – the Art School – but was looking forward to it with great anticipation. In order to make the gig I had to call in emergency babysitting favours and drive around 200 miles, which just shows how determined I was to be there.

I’ve been to the Art School before, but a few years ago and in the smaller hall. At least we were in the larger hall this time, but it still felt too small for them.  I got there early, but unfortunately there was a delay letting us in, so we had to wait in a very cold entranceway for what seemed like ages, and I had already checked in my coat before I found out.  I did however catch a glimpse of William and Kapil wandering round. We eventually got in and I made a beeline for the front, determined to be down at the barrier.  Actually I ran to the bathroom and the bar first (diet coke, I was driving) and was pleased to see that the whole venue had been kitted out to be fully accessible.  Lifts to each floor and an accessible bathroom (and gender neutral bathroom).  I know that venue access is important to the band, but I had never seen anywhere in Glasgow with facilities like the Art School. They support the Attitude is Everything campaign – as should you.

Support came from Declan McKenna. I hadn’t heard of him before, but he came out all confidence and with a band with 2 girls in it, so I was interested.  He was young. He looked REALLY young. Like my cousin has a (teenage) kid who wouldn’t look out of place next to him. But the Mystery Jets were REALLY young when they started out, and almost everyone I see on a stage these days is younger than me, so I just need to get used to that. He was good. Well, the band were good, if he’s a solo act I’m glad he put together a band rather than using a computer backing.  He’s definitely one to watch.

Much as I love the Mystery Jets, I’ve seen them a few times now and there have been good times and bad times.  Luckily this was a good time.  They were on top form, probably it was as good a show as the very first time I saw them back in the QMU.  The set was heavy on the new record, there was a nice couple of more acoustic numbers in the middle (argh, I knew I should have written this nearer the time – Bombay Blue and Bubblegum? It may not have been, sorry, bad fan moment), a rockier section with my favourite Taken by the Tide. My other favourite Blood Red Balloon sounded amazing as well.  There were the usual hits from yesteryear and surprise! Dennis, which went down with us oldies.


Since Kai left the band they have been working with new bassist Jack Flanagan, who I hadn’t really seen much of, but who seems to have been fully integrated.  He actually spoke to the crowd much more than the other 3, perhaps they are pleased to have someone to take on that role. He’s one of those instantly likeable, without being arrogant or annoying, kind of blokes, and gave the show a nice lift.


They all looked like they were having a good time, which always makes for a more entertaining show.  It was a longer set than I ever remember them playing before, it was the last stop on their tour and they seemed to want to make the most of it.  Blaine’s vocals were stronger and richer than I remembered, but still had that beautiful vulnerable quality on the likes of Flakes. William had always taken secondary vocals but he has a larger presence on this latest album and it translated well to the live stage.  Maybe they’ve both been off taking singing lessons these past 4 years, or maybe it’s maturity and experience but Williams’s singing seems to have improved measurably.  There’s a descending run on the chorus of Midnight’s Mirror which was just sublime.  And his guitar technique remains as insane as ever.


I sang along, danced along, cheered and got a face full of William’s jacket when he jumped down to the barrier. One of those gigs that you never want to end.  Sadly it did. I bought a cool “baseball shirt” (long-sleeved t-shirt) and returned to the cold Glasgow streets.  Some people were waiting by the tour bus, and I thought about it for a second, until the cold air hit my lungs and the rain started to fall and I remembered previous occasions waiting outside for a LOOOONG time for them to never emerge so I decided to call it a night.

I’ve heard them get a fair bit of radio play with the new stuff, so hopefully I’ll see them again before another 4 years pass.