A game of two halves would probably be the best analogy to describe the master of physical comedy’s latest venture onto the big stage. One half average, the other half excellent.
I arrived at the Phones 4u Arena brimming with excitement, knowing that I was finally going to see my favourite comedian perform live. I had high hopes that one of Britain’s best-loved standup comics would once again have me in hysterics, as all his other tours have done.
However, things didn’t initially turn out as I was expecting.
By the time Evans ran off stage at the interval to change out of his sweat-drenched suit, I found myself slightly puzzled. My jaw was aching from near-continuous laughter, but at the same time I was somewhat underwhelmed. The first half had been undeniably funny, but by Evans’ own high standards I still felt he had a lot more to offer.
There didn’t seem to be any real structure to the performance. Random jokes were scattered around and although I laughed at all of them, I found them surprisingly hard to relate to. There were no obvious themes.
I’m a huge fan of Lee Evans. I’ve watched his shows countless times online—I even own some of his DVDs. His previous tours have been built on scenarios that almost everyone goes through on a regular basis, in particular married couples and families.
The first half of this show didn’t really focus on these kinds of situations. I laughed as he spoke about train stations, Dyson vacuum cleaners and police sirens, but in all honesty there were very few moments where I thought to myself, “oh my God, that’s so true!”
However, I should have known better than to doubt a comedian of Lee Evans’ calibre. Perhaps changing his suit at the interval gave him a new lease of comedic life, because the way in which he upped his game in the second half stunned me.
Suddenly, I found myself relating to all the jokes. I howled as he talked about trips to the optician and the dentist. His painfully-accurate description of guys on a night out had me in stitches. I was almost slapping my knees as he spoke about charity work in Africa.
The crowd were mesmerised by his boundless energy, his wild facial contortions and his delightful ability to give ordinary, inanimate objects a personality of their own. In the world of Lee Evans, everything has a voice, be it food in a microwave or a sock in the washing machine.
As is the case with any Lee Evans show, situations involving him and his wife became a prominent feature in the second half. The wonderful thing about these jokes is that you don’t have to be married to understand them—for me, simply watching and listening to my parents is enough.
His observation of how his wife behaves in hotels and in shopping centres closely resembles what my mother gets up to in the same situations. There were moments in the show where I could picture my parents acting out the scenario that he was narrating.
Evans is well known for ending his shows with some sort of musical performance and this tour was no different. After one final dig at his wife, he sat down at an electric organ and dedicated a heart-warming song to her, even managing a few strums on a guitar as well.
He wasn’t finished there, however. Those of you who are familiar with his tours will know of his iconic Bohemian Rhapsody routine; the crowd roared in delight as he ended the show with a delightful performance of it.
One thing that really struck me was Evans’ humility throughout the show. Even after years of performing to sell-out crowds, his modesty still shines through on every occasion.
He repeatedly thanked the people of Manchester during the performance and while I suspect he says similar things at every venue he goes to, he was genuinely hugely appreciative of the hospitality he’s received up here in the North West throughout his career.
After he’d shouted down the microphone for one final time, he came straight to the front of the stage to greet his adoring fans, who had afforded him a standing ovation. He slowly made his way along, shaking hands with as many people as he could.
Surprisingly, the mad rush to the front that I’d been expecting didn’t ensue, so I simply strolled down to the stage and stuck my arm out in expectation as he approached. What followed was a brief moment of eye contact accompanied by the sweatiest, most glorious handshake I have ever experienced.
I walked out of the Arena smiling like a little child at Christmas, realising that I’d not only watched one of my idols perform for almost three hours, but shaken his hand as well.
By the looks of things, the Lee Evans juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down. I certainly hope that he doesn’t. Although this wasn’t vintage Evans throughout, the latter parts of the show were enough to convince me that this behemoth of British comedy has still got it.