I’m a fan of Rich Hall’s dry, somewhat dark and straight up humour. I leapt at the chance to see him in the Hoedown in the Spiegeltent Palazoo. This is a comfortable but close venue. You don’t often get the chance to get this close to the big names in the Festival.
I was gobsmacked to discover there were still tickets left when I joined the queue. It’s a late night show, though, and follows on straight from Rich Hall’s main comedy gig. Perhaps he is his own enemy when it comes to bookings?
Sure, the Hoedown is chock full of music but it’s also packed with jokes. Hall is incredibly funny.
I suppose you’d call this “country” or perhaps “bluegrass” when it comes to the style of music. I’m not a fan of country at all – but perhaps that’s just my exposure to it from the radio and TV shows. It seems odd to say but in many ways Hall and band seemed to play a far more authentic country sound than the big hat/big boots commercial tosh that finds its way to air.
Mind you, perhaps the difference is that every single song played by Hall and band is packed tightly with jokes. That’s certainly not your standard approach.
Here we get to see just how talented Hall is. He’ll take information from the crowd – jobs, home cities, names and the like – and weave them into the song. We heard the ballad of the Insurance Salesman from Salisbury. Oh sure, I’m sure there are many tricks and techniques Hall and co use to adopt previously established songs to fit the audience but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you, the audience, are getting songs tailored directly at you.
I only found myself squirming uncomfortably when one apparent joke of the act was to pick on a couple to see whether they’d propose during the show. Sure, marriage woes and romance trouble seem entirely appropriate to the style of music, at times, but while the crowd chanted “Do it, do it, do it” to try and get poor Kevin to propose to Leslie, I wanted to shout an alternative. Don’t get browbeaten into a marriage proposal as part of a music comedy act. Don’t! Thankfully Kevin had enough willpower and didn’t succumb to the urges of the crowds.
I think it’s worth highlighting how good Hall’s band is too. They kept up with the improvised music perfectly. The lead guitarist was great and very funny. About a third of the way into the show two sisters join the stage, sing their own song and then become backing singers. I think their name was Mason.