MITCH BENN: DON’T FEAR THE REAPER
There are many things that can be said about Mitch Benn. ‘Laid back’ isn’t one of them. He comes onstage, guitar in hand, and launches without preamble into his full-on, top-volume take on the Blue Oyster Cult anthem from which the title of the show is taken. Yes, this is a show about death, sort of, and does cover that subject, but in a non-morbid way – and all at machine-gun pace and with a vocal power that pushes you into the back of your seat. Not that this is any kind of negative criticism; it does mean he gets through an awful lot in an hour and a half, and there’s no danger of drifting off to sleep. On the way there are songs in tribute to several of the celebrity fatalities of 2016; one on the experience of being a retired pope; the perfect relationship break-up song; and lots and lots more, in between rants on the idiocy of Brexit, the tedium of eternity in Heaven, and why death is good for you. What really impresses is the quality of the songs; the wicked accuracy of the enormous range of pastiche musical styles he takes on; and the bewildering cleverness, complexity and wit of the lyrics. If he isn’t Britain’s top comic songwriter, now Victoria Wood’s gone, it would be hard to say who is. A certain radio show (to which he made only the most fleeting reference) is much the poorer without him.
John Christopher Wood