With red, white and blue sticks of rock piled up in the foyer and a jolly rendition of Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside playing in the auditorium, there was a distinct end-of-the-pier feel at St George’s Hall last night.
This line-up of stellar old-school entertainers brought a slice of seaside special to land-locked Bradford. And the audience loved it.
“Rock on Tommy!” someone shouted into the night as we made our way out.
Long before the age of ice-dancing, bug-eating, ballroom-dancing celebrities, these acts dominated prime time TV schedules, providing family entertainment with a cheeky twinkle in their eyes.
Their Saturday night telly days are behind them but, judging by the warm response last night, variety is far from dead. The stage was flanked by a huge Union Jack with ‘Best of British’ emblazoned across. And our funny bones were well and truly tickled by a slick line-up from the four corners of the British Isles.
The gags came thick and fast from compere Frank Carson whose booming delivery proved it’s the way he tells ’em. There was the one about the Englishman, Irishman, Welshman and Scotsman granted a last wish. “The Welshman asked for 400 Taffs singing There’ll Be A Welcome In the Hillside, the Scot asked for 400 Scots singing The Northern Lights of Aberdeen and the Irishman asked for 400 Irish folk doing Riverdance,” beamed Frank. “The Englishman said ‘Shoot me now!’”
Cannon and Ball held the audience in their palms, teasing each other with the ease and timing that comes with being one of the nation’s biggest double acts. Snapping his red braces, Bobby Ball was delightfully daft as Tommy reined him in with the skill of an accomplished straight man.
Some of the biggest laughs also went to the Krankies. With flawless comic timing, impressive physical comedy and warm spontaneity, it was like watching a pair of polished music hall entertainers. Wee Jimmy’s looking a bit long in the tooth for a cheeky schoolboy, so the nod to alter ego Janette Tough’s age was a nice touch. She even whipped out her bus pass!
Magician Paul Daniels mesmerised generations on TV and it was a treat to see him in action. Combining quickfire comedy with slick magic skills, he hoodwinked two audience members using a lemon, an egg, a nut and a £10 note. Jimmy Cricket, wearing his trademark Left and Right wellies, treated us to an impression of an Elvis look-alike lollipop man and a gag about a turkey being signed for Manchester United. Yes, there was a ‘Foul’ joke involved. As Jimmy says, “There’s more.” My favourite was: “I was in a shopping centre and there was a power cut. I was standing for hours on the escalator.”
And Brotherhood of Man, looking barely a day older than in their Eurovision glory days, sounded fab. I found myself singing along to Figaro, Angelo and, yes, Save Your Kisses For Me.
Variety is alive and well, thanks to this line-up of accomplished, likeable entertainers.