Review: Robin Ince and Josie Long – Shambles

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29 Jan 2014 @ 11.11 am
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Feisty and sharp-witted: Robin Ince and Josie Long

Review: Josie Long, Robin Ince and Grace Petrie
Venue: The Basement, January 27

January always feels like a good time to stay in, taking stock and making plans by the fire until the nights finally begin to draw out. But the lure of a Robin Ince and Josie Long gig at the Basement put an end to all that, and the evening certainly didn’t disappoint.

Robin Ince has been around for a good while now, starting out as a comedy writer before coming to wider public attention as a support act for Ricky Gervais around ten years ago.

Since then, he has enjoyed success on several fronts, including his stand-up tours, his Book Club nights (where he picks apart second-hand books that he and audience members have brought along), his Infinite Monkey Cage show with Brian Cox and his regular slots as a pseudo-psychic profiler who identifies a mystery caller using only the caller’s favourite records on Steve Lamacq’s BBC 6music show.

Josie Long has covered a whole lot of ground during a career which began with stand-up at the age of 14, and which has seen her make a wide range of TV and radio appearances.

She has also launched her own comedy clubs, published her own fanzine, written for TV, radio and magazines, and has even co-produced a couple of short films.

In 2010, the two began to collaborate on a Comedy Central podcast which is now called Robin & Josie’s Utter Shambles, a wayward beast that apparently clocks up around 500,000 downloads per episode.

It does what it says on the tin, being a largely disorganised emptying of whatever is in their heads at the time, and it can be very entertaining. Guests have included Stewart Lee, Jon Ronson, Alan Moore, Scroobius Pip, Tim Minchin and Terry Jones.

The success of the podcast inspired them to take the show out on the road, and last night’s sold out gig was undoubtedly a vindication of that decision. We were warned early on in proceedings that they might lose the plot and go on a bit, but that we should just edit our memories of it later on in the comfort of our own homes.

So it proved, with a show that ran for around two hours 40 minutes including a short interval, and which covered an unfeasibly broad range of topics.

It’s hard to isolate individual sections from such a vibrant and continually-shifting flow – suffice to say that Brian Blessed impersonations might morph into zany riffs on 1970s public information films via a discussion on why first dates are so hard without alcohol and whether it was therefore coincidental that teetotal societies tend to have arranged marriages – all in the space of a couple of minutes.

It was frantic stuff, which could easily have become tiresome in the wrong hands, but the two performers are sharp-witted and well-suited enough to carry it all off.

With such a long and sprawling set, however, you do need a change of mood, and the addition of Grace Petrie halfway through the evening was a smart choice. She’s been described a folk singer-songwriter, but that sells her short.

She has none of the blandness and nostalgia of most of today’s folkie strummers, and is instead a feisty and robust protest singer who mixes the political and the personal with a slight feel of early Billy Bragg.

But she has her own very individual take on life. Her lyrics really cut through, adding a whole new slant to the evening, and her sharp political criticism – so refreshing in a climate of largely supine acceptance of the power of Big Money – fitted right in with that of the other two performers on what turned out to be a really entertaining evening.