Monty Python Live - One Down, Five to Go
Even without the aid of Cardinal Fang, Cardinal Biggles and a comfy chair.... I confess!
I like Monty Python...
There's a reason for this :
1969. The end of the 60's introduced us to a few things that altered the world around us, probably forever. For me - four things made the most impression :
Apollo 11 lands on the moon.
Led Zeppelin introduce us to the heavy sound that will spawn a million riffs.
A long haired, bearded and ragged man introduces a strange new comedy programme with the word "IT'S!", Liberty Bell played and there was PYTHON.
And l was born.
NASA stopped going back to the moon in the early 1970's, Led Zep disbanded in 1980 with the death of John Bonham, Monty Python went their separate ways in 1983 and the death of Graham Chapman looked like that would be that. So, for my whole life there've been three great things that influenced me, a love of science driven from the dawn of the space age, rock music (when I was old enough to appreciate it) and being SILLY.
I would argue, and that wouldn't be the five minute argument, it would be the full half hour for £5, that being silly is the most important of the three to me. I never saw the moon landings, Zep, or Python live, I was too young for all of them, so it was TV repeats, video and then Youtube. The only thing left was being silly and after the final performance of the "Dead Chapman Sketch" (Norwegian Chapmans stun easily), there would be no Army Colonel to tell me to "Stop That!"
Forty five years after Monty Python first appeared (no - one expected them, their chief weapon was surprise....etc..), they are playing some shows, and I was lucky enough to see the first night. This is a once in a lifetime gig, if you can get to see it. These are comedy rock stars, and some of them, at least, don't want to be doing farewell tour after farewell tour. Michael Palin has said he won't go on the road, presumably having been all over the world for the BBC there must be loads of countries that wont let him back in, probably because they don't want foreigners coming around being nice to people.
This was Python without the cheap BBC sets, this was a slick, well put together stage show. BIG lights, BIG Video screens, a BIG orchestra, a BIG chorus line. This had all the hall-marks of Eric Idles' hollywood-ization stamped (possibly with a 16 ton weight) all over it. The content however was very familar. If truth be told, the Pythons could probably have stood on an empty stage and shouted into the audience,"OK - 'Spanish Inquisition' - OFF YOU GO", and then waited around for the audience to start, finish and then applaud the sketch on their own, and everyone would have had a jolly good time.
What we did get was a replay of many of the Python's greatest and, in a few places, some not so greatest hits. There were Llamas of the Dangerous type, Albatross' of the Interval type, Penguins of the Exploding type, Kangaroos of the Philosophical type and a Parrot. There were lots of video clips from the original series that served as distractions for scenery and scene changes, only one new one, at the beginning of the show, with a time travelling blue box ... yes, that's right... the "RETARDIS".Honestly, that's what THEY called it, please don't turn up at my house with flaming torches.
The sketches had been cut together to feed from one to another a lot more smoothly than they would have ever done on the tv show, which worked particularly well in the second half alongside more of the most famous material. I don't think there were any major omissions from the famous sketches, the only thing really missing was Graham Chapman, who appears to have made some pitiful excuse about not appearing on account of death. Lazy sod, plenty of other dead stuff turned up.
Some material was updated, "Blackmail", for example, was a lot longer and contained the input from a guest celebrity. Although said celebrity managed to fluff his lines and came across very amateur dramatics.The "Penis Song" has now been extended to include all genders and preferences and has left me with a tune in my head that is deninitely not one that I can burst into song in public with or they'd stick me in the dock, and I won't...come...back!!.There was also Ballet. That's right BALLET!!
We roamed the world, from China to Finland and Australia, presumably to make Mr Palin feel at home, or is that NOT at home? On the performance front, age hasn't been too unkind, although Terry J needed queue cards quite a bit, Gilliam was, as usual, playing grotesques, Idle was clearly loving it and despite Cleese having a gravelly throat, watching him struggle not to laugh whilst performing with Palin was fantastic. It was also nice that they included Carol Cleveland, although there didn't seem to be a lot for her to do.
I have to say, especially after 2 weeks reflection before writing this, that I wish they'd tweaked things a bit more, because although it was great to see all this live, I knew it TOO well. This could, of course, be viewed as "GET A LIFE YOU SILLY MAN" so its my own faultI On the other hand, Led Zeppelin played the O2 in 2007, I didn't get to see that (damn you, other 2 Million people trying to get tickets at the same time...), no-one complained that there was no new material, there were no cries of "OH, NO , not Stairway to Heaven .. AGAIN!!, BOOOOO , WHERE'S THE NEW STUFF!"
This was also a stage show on the edge. The edge of music hall, the edge of turning into Variety (yes with a capital V), the very form of entertainment that these guys wanted to get away from in the 60's. Its easy to see why they wouldn't want to keep trotting this out and becoming a sad shadow of themselves. These are the FINAL shows. They make this very clear at the end with two slides on the big screens.
1941 - 1989
1969 to 2014
All of the evidence points to this being the end of the road for Python. These shows are money driven and this is plainly intimated, the interval screens displayed a "Merch-O-Meter", they're getting back money that they lost in a law suit over "Spamalot" and John Cleese is paying for another divorce. So, we are left with the end of the third of my four (FOUR, there are FOUR, THINGS), life changers from 1969. There will shortly only be me left to carry the torch. What we need then is a silly, rock, astronaut to put things back in order, an "Urban Spaceman" if you will. Hang on..That's Neil Innes ! Wasn't he sort of in Monty Python as well? He wasn't in the live show!
So, was the forty-five year wait for me to see this worth it? This one's a bit of a paradox. I wish I'd been a bit more surprised by the material.The guy sitting behind me clearly was, I thought he was going to have a heart attack with laughter!
If I hadn't known it quite so well, would I have wanted to go? After careful consideration, I'll give this one a rating of
SPAM out of SPAM.