February 10 2012
IT was his first dates in the city in five years and he meant business. Ten minutes ahead of his scheduled appearance on stage and the bars were closed: “At the request of the artist”, according to the announcement.
Billy Connolly, as he would later tell us, used to have a drink problem. “I knew it when I was in a phone box... and I couldn’t get out.”
He no longer drinks but that wasn’t the reason the shutters came down early. It was more to ensure that everyone was seated on time. And to avoid toilet break interruptions during this interval-free two-hour show.
He’d already cut two shows short on this tour, partly due to such interruptions, according to reports.
No such incidents on Friday night, the first of two sell-outs at the Royal Concert Hall. The 69-year-old seemed relaxed, confident and happy to go off script and banter with a few members of the audience.That said, being off script is what he does.
There seemed to be two stories he was trying to tell. One about driving in bad weather, another about how wearing a bandage made you more attractive to girls. And each took forever to finish as he drifted off on tangent after tangent.
It’s nothing groundbreaking; the ageing process, the Irish, the Scots, sat-nav problems, schoolteachers, the innocence of children, misheard song lyrics...
“I have wee strokes,” he said, referring to his frequent memory lapses mid-set.
And he laughed to himself a lot.
How genuine that is... well it’s difficult to tell but he’s using the same material night after night. No so his reaction to the falling dust from the venue’s lighting rig. “It’s like working in a snow globe,” he quips.
The highlight was his recollection of watching the TV coverage of the terrorist attack on Glasgow airport. Particularly the reaction of the baggage handler John Smeaton and his warning: “Come to Glasgow... we’ll set about you.”
Why has Billy Connolly allowed himself to be leapfrogged by the next generation of comedians? They’re over at the Capital FM Arena more often than not. Connolly admits he doesn’t enjoy the big shows. And besides, he has nothing to prove. The Big Yin was recently named the most influential British stand-up of all time in a poll for the TV channel Dave.
He’s no longer the best stand-up in Britain. But he’s still worth two hours of your time - as long as you don’t mind being sober for it.