I confess that I am a big Tim Minchin fan, so I am naturally biased in his favour. He is a consistently brilliant songwriter and entertainer, whatever existential or comedic theme he tackles… However, I also know how good and broad his mastermind musical material is, so, did his show ‘Back – Encore Tour 2021 (Old Songs, New Songs, F*** You Songs)‘ do his material justice? Thomas Gregory gives his take.
In short, yes, mostly… Now here’s the long review:
In comparison to previous shows, Minchin’s storytelling in spoken segments focused more candidly on his family and their challenges, whilst still talking about topics of polarised politics and religion. These stories led nicely into his new, serious songs which he played more than I expected in exchange for his old, primarily comedy-oriented material.
adding a new dimension to his old songs
The curtain dropped part-way through the new song Airport Piano to reveal the seven extra musicians, which launched the banger into the sky. The band were introduced at the right time in the show, early enough to get his (and our) money’s worth, but late enough for me to have forgotten about expecting them. They complimented Tim very well throughout, adding a new dimension to his old songs, even if his voice was occasionally drowned out by poor mixing. The band also freed him from the piano so he could bounce around the stage and stare into the cameras. Needless to say, his singing voice and piano playing was spot on all night.
Although he didn’t ask for too much audience interaction, a handful of fans got a few reactions. He spent several minutes cracking up mid-Cheese after bantering with someone in the audience about wanting to steal his punchline, and he said how he felt reassured that the Nottingham audience were enjoying his cheesy puns.
focuses a little too much on the ‘new’
The lack of ‘old songs’ in the set list is a bold choice and it was excellent to hear 6 out of 11 of his 2020 solo album ‘Apart Together’ live. Nonetheless, this is not the ‘Apart Together’ Tour, it is the ‘Back – Encore’ tour and with it should have come a slightly wider audit of his different works.
To be clear, I love his solo album; I struggle to give you another album where I actively rate such a high percentage of the songs. But he focuses a little too much on the ‘new’ and its themes of loneliness, love and separation than the old ‘f*** you’ songs that people expect. Maybe because the pandemic reinforced these themes from his solo album, and he had already come to Nottingham in 2019, he chose to slightly overload his encore tour with this material.
The set list could’ve been improved by mixing it back with the 2019 run or bringing in new interpretations of his older songs. Yes, keep Airport Piano, but ditch Talked Too Much, Stayed Too Long for a full band version of Prejudice or Dark Side. Additionally, a second encore song, as seen on many of the original 2019 ‘Back’ tour performances would have been welcomed by me (although the rapid toilet hordes might have argued otherwise).
small changes would have brought the show to perfection
This would have given him space to perform one song from either of his musicals Matilda or Groundhog Day, or even mix it up and do something special for each audience, rather than a copy and paste set list – he certainly has enough amazing material to choose from. These small changes would have brought the show to perfection.
Overall, the show is fantastic. The fact that a few songs on the set list are my main criticism says a lot about Tim Minchin’s genius. 4.5 stars from me. Tim, if you’re out there, you get the extra ½ star for slightly adjusting the set list… and maybe chucking me a part in one of your musicals… and an album collaboration… Thank you, God.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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