IT’S perhaps fitting that on the opening night of the Glasgow Comedy Festival, Rob Deering should start and end his show, Musicface, with recreations of actual festival scenes.
The Stand, Glasgow
Having opened by referencing the late Richie Havens, who had the honour of kicking off Woodstock, Deering’s show closed with the crowd wielding either glow sticks or bubble guns while a guy called Andy attempted a Bez-like trance dance as the comic transported the room into his memory of performing at The Big Chill.
This sense of creating an illusion is partly what Deering’s comedy is about as he utilises pedals and little boxes of synths to create a looped soundscape within which he concocts a sea of jokes and aural trickery. As he recalls with mock outrage, it was all too much for one audience member at a show in Cardiff who insisted: “He’s not even playing that: it’s just recorded!” Deering notes that the beef he has with such a pernickety heckle chimes with the reaction of OMD’s Andy McCluskey who took exception to critics of late Seventies/early Eighties synth-pop maintaining that all he and his fellow new wavers did was “push a button and a song comes out”.
If only all music was as simple as that. Musical comedy, meanwhile, is an altogether tougher field. While the likes of Bill Bailey, Tim Minchin and Bo Burnham have raised the bar on this comedic sub-genre in recent times, most acts have a tendency to be musically impressive rather than side-splittingly hilarious.
That said, Deering does plenty with what he’s got, which is some excellent guitar skills, a never-ending supply of amiability and a versatile face featuring manic staring eyes and moveable rubbery lips.
With such a tech-heavy show, the dangers of pesky gremlins will always loom large, although Deering managed to handle a couple of hiccups admirably, playing his genial card for all its worth. In his locker, he also owns songs about coffee and red wine (during which a leaf is taken out of Tom Waits’s book with Deering’s guitar sounding as though it’s been out for a night on the town), and a crowd-pleasing ditty about the Ukip leader.
While the audience is treated to an almost inevitable mash-ups quiz, Deering is at his best when parodying familiar tunes. There’s the excellent ode to parenting based on Frozen’s Let It Go and he dips further back in time to manipulate The Police’s So Lonely into becoming a spine-tingling number about Ebola.
Seen on 12.03.15