On stage the Idiot Bastard Band have more musical instruments each than most bands have altogether. Apparently you can get them off tax if you play gigs (or so they claim) and, if the number of instruments on stage is anything to go by, the band must play a fair few gigs. Not that the band don’t make good use of this small music shop of a collection: you see, for all that the idiot bastard band comprises a group of highly respected comedians (“you’re watching a mid-life crisis unfold before your very eyes,” Phil Jupitas quips) they are all, also, very good musicians as they continually demonstrate over the course of the night’s hour and three-quarter long show.
If you have not yet come across the Idiot bastard Band then you have been missing out. Comprising Phil Jupitas, Ade Edmondson, Neil Innes and Rowland Rivron, a select group of comedians with a record collection to rival the most avid music collector, the idiot bastard band mixes up a selection of cover songs, novelty hits and original compositions to deliver an evening that perfectly balances comedy and music in a way that successfully entertains an audience that ranges from teenagers wearing Rolling Stones shirts to middle-aged groups wearing much the same attire.
Watching the band there is simply never a dull moment. All very funny people, the band maintain a running banter on stage that causes the greatest number of belly laughs whilst allowing time for each member to change instruments (which they do often throughout the set) without the other members having to stand around looking bored. The musical selections, meanwhile, are a delightful mix that rarely miss the target thanks to the band’s good-natured and off-hand approach towards them and you can guarantee that no two nights on the tour are the same as the band test out new tracks and new covers on unsuspecting audiences across the country.
Highlights? There were many but the earliest (and possibly one of the most memorable) is Ade Edmondson’s song about a man on a train called (somewhat inevitably) ‘man on a train’. The song, detailing the annoying habits exhibited by mobile-phone toting morons on public transport is a spot on observation delivered in Ade’s familiar tones and it damn-near has people rolling in the aisles. Phil adds to the laughter with a cover song entitled ‘Eddie don’t like furniture’ (by John Hegley), whilst ‘I was supporting madness’ is pure comic genius, and Rowland Rivron cocks up the words to a song that gleefully strips the romance out of a love affair that ends up on the roof before the first half ends with the band donning Mexican hats for a track that would terrify the PC brigade at fifty paces.
The second half offers just as much, if not more, with the legendary Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s ‘big shot’, a crazed attack on ‘flop eared mule’, the lyrics of which have to be heard to be believed (as does Ade’s trumpet playing skills), and Neil Innes damn near steals the show with ‘S Early In the morning’ which is played solo with only a backing barber shop quartet provided courtesy of his keyboard (“when I saw it did this I just had to have it!”). Closing the half out there are lovely renditions of the novelty hit ‘Transfusion’ which offers Rowland Rivron sound effects (a job he enjoys all too much) and Phil the chance to make much of lines such as “put some juice in me, Bruce… and a grand finale of ‘Urban spaceman’ which leaves the audience tired from laughing so much and yet still wanting more.
Overall it was always obvious that the Idiot bastard band would be funny, side-splittingly so – the pedigree of the members involved guaranteed it. What was less obvious was whether the band would strike the balance between music and comedy in a way that would successfully allow a near two hour show to work. That they do comes down to the band members’ excellent musical skills and obvious passion for playing (witness Ade’s glee as he cranks it up for the ‘I ain’t got no blues blues’) and the result is an evening which offers at least as many opportunities for the audience to tap their feet as laugh out loud. One or two songs, perhaps, edged into lengthy territory and a song on democracy was less bitingly incisive than one might have hoped, but overall it’s hard to imagine a better Friday night’s entertainment than to have spent it in the company of the Idiot Bastard band. Catch them while you can – the tour runs through November – it’s a great night out.