MUCH has changed since Chris Rock last toured. His daughters have become teenagers, and though rich and privileged, he schools them harshly in the realities of growing up black in racist America. His infidelity and appetite for pornography have cost him his 16-year marriage, and the awareness that he’s won and also lost in life is wrung for wry bittersweetness. More recently, the #MeToo movement has cost his peer Louis CK his career. Or, as Rock puts it, with typically rough poetry, “a titty from ‘96” has returned to haunt him.
The Hydro, Glasgow ***
And yet in many ways, for this once groundbreaking comic, nothing much has changed. Despite re-entering the now candidly frank dating game with Candide-like wonder, “pussy” remains a trap and currency, with his advice on sustaining relationships undermined by his entrenched views on gender roles. Generous in splashing out for three top class support acts, Anthony Jeselnik, Michelle Wolf and Jeffrey Ross, he’s nevertheless a (justifiably) paranoid millionaire, his tour called Total Blackout because patrons must lock their phones in special security pouches, lest any routines are filmed. His fears about race and violent crime are potent, with his fantasy of corner-cutting, low-budget carrier Risky Airlines exquisitely realised.
At 52, Rock retains charisma to burn, prowling and scowling, ferociously hammering his opinions with mantra-like conviction. But his evocation of a poverty safari, that he supposedly visited Easterhouse and found it terrifying, reveals a disappointing lack of respect for the audience. Nevertheless, it fits with his semi-convincing persona of a harassed, celebrity savant clinging to what he’s got in turbulent times.