Saturday 18 May 2024

Stage: Killer punchlines and guitar riffs

Caveman in a Spaceship
Dave Hill
Soho Theatre • 15-18.May.24 ★★★★

American comic and musician Dave Hill has built a following with his appearances on a range of TV shows and in various bands, one of which supported Tenacious D on a recent tour. Now he is taking this solo piece on the road. Hill's middle-aged personal and rapid-fire performance are almost literally breathtaking, barely allowing the audience to pause between the constant barrage of hilarious punchlines, throwaway gags and musical riffs. His deferential delivery is hugely engaging, as he bares his soul to the audience while also striking several painfully cool poses.

This performance begins with a blast of chaotic energy, as he charges the stage on a BMX bike in a jumpsuit accompanied by a strobe light, fireworks and foam machine, twirling nunchucks and playing fearsome chords on his guitar while singing the title song, which speaks about keeping one foot in the past and the other in the future. "I nailed it," he sighs breathlessly at the end, and launches straight into a stream of consciousness that includes playing audience requests, running through an extended comedy sketch about Poundland and offering specific pick-up lines for Londoners to use. All of this is delivered with a surreal grin, thanking the audience for every laugh.

At one point he's joined by a couple of backup musicians who ably keep up with him even though he continually asks them to hold back. Throughout, Hill creates a surprisingly smooth vibe that's both groovy and very silly. Standout moments include a wildly paraphrased retelling of the gospel story of the loaves and fishes, which climaxes in a song about getting into a fight with his girlfriend's sister's annoying boyfriend. Every moment of this feels improvised, thanks to Hill's flailing, slightly out-of-control persona, but it's clearly very carefully put together, from the nutty flourishes to the expert guitar playing that punctuates everything.

When this brisk hour is up, the audience simply doesn't want it to end. Like all the best Fringe shows, this one leaves us longing for more. Judging by the audience's reaction, it's obvious that Hill has well and truly conquered London, and now we want to see whatever he does next. The question is whether we'll be able to keep up with him.

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