You may have seen Tony Law on Mock the Week a couple of years ago during his ‘mainstream’ period, you may have seen him more recently on The Alternative Comedy Experience, but nothing can prepare you for seeing him in the flesh. On a rainy Tuesday night and after a quick bite to eat a MEATliquor we headed to the delightful City Varieties to take in his latest live show Enter the ToneZone. There is somewhat of a juxtaposition seeing such a crazy, alternative comedian in such a traditional and quaint venue, and crazy he is.
Emerging in a black oneside, that is slightly too tight in all the wrong places, he launches into the show at 100 miles per hour and it hardly lets up. Referencing a note book on the ground, being uncertain as to where he is in the show and flitting from one subject matter to the next without sometimes seeming to have finished the piece like it’s all just made up on the spot. Of course it’s all carefully choreographed, the best ‘improvisational’ comics have to have structure to their set otherwise it would fall flat. But the charm of Tony Law is that sometimes you genuinely think it’s a train of random consciousness, sometimes you feel like he really is breaking down in front of you.
I don’t know! I’m with you, I don’t get. You’ve got the right attitude. I’m like what? If I was out there I’d be right beside you going, ‘What the #@!%, I dont like it’!
The first half of the show is as mad and bonkers as anything I have seen on stage. In one sequence he appears on stage brandishing a ‘stolen’ trombone which he uses as a comfort device in order to interact with the audience. There is a spot of contemporary dance and he ends up playing catch with a beach ball on stage with one of the audience to Van Halen blaring in the background. Bizarre but funny also, if the antics with the beach ball didn’t have you in stitches then Law’s mischievous glances at the crowd surely did.
The second half of the show is much more sedate as Law tells us about the death of his sausage dog Cartridge Davidson. It’s a sentimental piece about death and family and seems to be genuinely from the heart. The pace of the show certainly drops but there are enough random forays into other bits of material to ensure the energy built up in the first half doesn’t totally fade.
The problem with the Tonezone is that because there is so much randomness and such a contrast between the frenzy of first half material and the sentimentality of the second half there is no cohesion when he come to wrap things up. How do you end a show with no clear structure or common theme? Well you hit the play button on the Van #Halen again and get the front row on stage throwing the beach ball to each other whilst Law walks round stage blasting out random notes on the trombone.
A crazy night of comedy buy very enjoyable, not for the feint hearted though.
Pre show dinner was at MEATliquor, one of the latest in Leeds’ new burger joints to open. As you enter through the glass atrium on Bank Street you descend the stairs into something very different. A dark room which looks almost dive bar meets working mens club. The menu doesn’t offer the biggest choice but there is enough to keep everyone interested, provided you like meat. The drinks menu is about three times the size of the food menu and it’s good to see a regularly changing offer from Yorkshire brewer Magic Rock.
I went for the bacon cheeseburger and cheese fries which turned up on a tray, no plates here. The burger was decent, a nice succulent patty oozing with blood in the middle, but there is a lot of competition in Leeds now and I’m not sure I’d rank it as high as Reds or even the likes of Get Baked or Boss Burger.
After dinner we stopped for a pre show drink in the White Swan adjoining the City Varieties. They’ve done a good job with this place, the feel of traditional pub, with decent food and a great selection of local and craft beers including Leeds Brewery and the newly opened Northern Monk. I think this place deserves a longer visit in future when I don’t have to rush off to the theatre.