Tim Minchin at Eventim Apollo review: the comic virtuoso is back

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Is it a comedy gig? Is it a rock gig? With Tim Minchin at the moment you get both on the same night. The Australian all-rounder’s latest show, Back, is a near-perfect showcase for his various virtuoso talents.

The tour was originally called Back when it launched in 2019 because it was his first tour for eight years. Now there is a further meaning to the title as Minchin, all shiny teeth and age-inappropriate tight trousers, resumes a global jaunt halted by the pandemic.

His first London show found him starting in pensive mood, barefoot at the grand piano and reflecting on his own mortality in If This Plane Goes Down. The song neatly highlights the star’s gift for linguistically slick pay-offs: “where will my remains be sent to be eventually dentally identified?”

If his music evokes old school maestros Tom Lehrer and even Gilbert and Sullivan, his chat is state-of-the-art stand-up, touching on hot button topics from confirmation bias and mental health to public shaming, the latter also tactfully tackled in 15 Minutes when he sings: “I am scared to say anything that may be taken the wrong way.”

Minchin in full flow in Back (Andy Hollingsworth)
Minchin in full flow in Back (Andy Hollingsworth)

Elsewhere he riffs on a witty whistlestop autobiography. Marrying his childhood sweetheart in Australia, moving to London and then LA before returning to Australia. He is quick to admit that he knows he is privileged yet also keen to point out that successful people with seaview houses can also get depression – it hit him badly when his Hollywood movie was shelved.

Despite serious asides Back has an upbeat tone, particularly when Minchin is joined by a full band onstage. This frees up this Mozart of mirth to wiggle at the front of the stage or gurn into the onstage cameras that project his image onto a large screen. His frankly nonsensical mini-epic Cheese sees him climb on his piano and behave as absurdly as any rock icon.

Back is an intriguing hybrid of music and comedy, like nothing else around —more Mick Jagger than Bill Bailey, it gives the flaxen-haired extrovert the opportunity to flex his frontman muscles. The audience is fascinating too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a wide age span at a gig, from teens allowed out on a school night – ageing Matilda The Musical fans? – up to grandparents.

A delayed start made the event overrun, so there was something poetic about Minchin finishing with Talked Too Much, Stayed Too Long from his last album Apart Together. He suggested he’d like those words on his tombstone. Judging by the standing ovation after his encore they certainly didn’t apply to this performance.

Eventim Apollo Hammersmith, tonight & Thursday. Also 02 Shepherds Bush Empire, Nov 30 & Dec 1, ticketmaster.co.uk

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