Peter Kay at the O2 Arena review: delivered in spades


Sub-zero temperatures and rail strikes were never going to keep Peter Kay’s fans away from the 02 Arena. They had anticipated his appearance for five years, when his last tour was cancelled for private reasons. So was the Better Late Than Never show worth the wait? It was touch and go but eventually it delivered in spades.

Kay has lost some weight, but has hardly reinvented himself for his epic tour, which includes groundbreaking monthly gigs here until 2025. His material still trades heavily on shameless nostalgia. The bulk of his audience looked well over 30 and you might need to be almost twice that age to recognise some of his references.

But there were plenty who clearly did as the first half moved quickly from Christmas Cracker one liners – “karajoke” – to a TV advert singalong. If Kay hasn’t arranged a sponsorship deal or at least substantial free samples of Club biscuits, Mars bars or Fairy Liquid he is missing a trick.

And naturally there were his catchphrases. He can no longer buy garlic bread in Morrisons, he said, because asking for it makes everyone laugh. He claimed that he only appeared in a Doctor Who episode so that he could make a joke about “Dalek Bread”.

Elsewhere he compared the past to the present. Blockbuster Video to Netflix, chunky mail order catalogues to Amazon. No book token prizes for guessing which ones he prefers.

One change to Kay was that even he now talks about his mental health, albeit lightly. He explained that his OCD means he has to eat every baked bean in the can and puts tape around hotel door frames so keep light out. The latter led into a stand-out anecdote about a family trip to New York dominated by a search for an English cuppa.

Now that Kay is 49 and genuinely middle aged rather than prematurely middle aged there was the inevitable routine about intimate medical examinations. His account of being treated for kidney stones had the entire male contingent laughing and wincing simultaneously. My legs remained firmly crossed throughout.

A vein of sentimentality ran through the show too, most notably when he talked about his late grandmother. Kay took a break from the relatable quips to play a recording of their conversation about her funeral plans while a montage upped mushiness levels to new heights.

And then suddenly he was gone, before returning and asking everyone to keep his spectacular encore secret. Let’s just say it was not strictly comedy but as it shovelled surprise on surprise it certainly put smiles on everyone’s faces.

Next show January 21, then one monthly until April 2025;