As a cultural ambassador for the US, Rich Hall has become the sort of hard-gigging, craggy troubadour he so venerates in Willie Nelson and so disparages in Bob Dylan - the latter an American icon whose diminishing returns from endless touring leaves the comic feeling furiously short-changed. Happily for fans of the world-weary Hall, though, while there’s a sizeable chunk of classic material here, especially in hilarious songs such as Rose of Hawick, with his setlist tailored to a Scottish audience, the new material is vital and incredulously angry.
Rich Hall’s Hoedown, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****
Hall’s Hoedown is split into a half of stand-up and another of country tunes with his band, and the comedian, who lives in Montana for most of the year, promises himself that he’ll ease into the Donald Trump jokes, a pledge he splutteringly reneges on less than five minutes into the night.
The recurring cycle of gun violence, hand-wringing and inaction allows him to be topical with sharp, well-honed observations, as does the US class system of wealth and Stateside stupidity generally, though he arguably misrepresents the NRA’s position on video game influence to set up some highly amusing despair about the power of cartoon animals to sell insurance.
Hall has some gnarled skin in the game here, as his loss of Obamacare health coverage under Trump coincides with a major scare for him, the visual image of him hanging on for a life-or-death diagnosis while a nurse toys with her lunch the high-point of an engrossing, personal tale that’s beautifully told. Some compelling insight into the rough and smooth of his marriage, meanwhile, presages the droll, bittersweet songs to come.