reggie london

2

“The world is a lot like London. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. There’s no morality or dishonour, just your own lonely code. Until your race is run. Until the end. Until we’re all just ghosts of the people we once thought we were.”

- ‘Legend’ (2015)

Review - Reggie Watts @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire

By the time Reggie Watts hits the stage of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, everyone in the crowd has already heard his voice – introducing both his opener, and himself – but in an accent so unlike his own that most audience members don’t realise it’s actually him. 

But there’s no mistaking the guy when he comes out, even with his hair up and with a considerably smaller beard than we’re used to. From the moment he steps out, the crowd, delighted by his mere presence, are with him. He makes it impossible not to be with him, as he’s such a likeable and charismatic performer. Throughout his improvised monologues, he makes nonsense the funniest thing imaginable with his deadpan delivery. “I know you guys like fish here. But just take a suggestion: try chips with it. I know what you’re thinking: ‘No!! Boo!’. But it’s a good source of starch”, Reggie says with an earnestness that makes everything doubly funny. He throws out nonsense names of people and places in a Tim and Eric-esque manner, and discusses how certain political parties lost in the UK because they didn’t build efficient enough spacecrafts. It’s him turning typical stage banter on its head and making you think about how dumb everything really is. But in a smart way.

The songs, which the evening is centred around, are genuinely thrilling and spontaneously hilarious. Hearing his skills on his looping recorder, as well as his beatboxing is exciting beyond belief, especially with the knowledge that what you’re hearing has never been heard before, and won’t be heard again. He gets into brilliant flows where he can bring the house down simply by talking gibberish in exaggerated voices (it’s impossible to ignore that he is genuinely a brilliant R&B vocalist though), while occasionally dropping in bits of actual words – like when a piece segues into his love of spreading marmite on toast. It’s his musical ability that makes everything funny. To hear his amazing voice and from-scratch acapella backing tracks driving such ridiculous ideas is nothing short of ingenious – it constructs, then deconstructs the modern pop song, the satire being especially sharp when he perfectly mimics particular vocal styles, or wonders why we call women girls in songs instead of women.

His skills alone are stupendous, but they’re doubled when he brings out the incredible Thundercat to jam with him on bass. They play a few songs with impeccable skill, which the audience are audibly riveted by – I usually hate people talking during shows, but to the guy behind me who repeatedly said “Oh my god. He is so, so talented” - I agree. The duo were amazing together and the audience were happy to let terrific musicality take the spotlight from the comedy in this stretch. Thundercat was a complete surprise and I definitely did not keep my composure when Reggie called him to come out, I was far too excited.

Reggie is also surprisingly current this night, when he talks in earnest about the attack on London Bridge last week, before apologising for Trump and later, performing a great, Reggae-tinged song about Hung Parliament. The laughs in these segments were laughs of catharsis and warmth, whether he was waxing philosophical about how weird and wonderful it is to be a person (his bit on how you will never objectively be able to see yourself is kind of beautiful) or how weird governments are as a concept. 

“Remember, you are not defined by your government”, Reggie says towards the end of the show. Everybody needed to hear that. It’s a silly, human and loving show, one that felt like a relief for a bunch of people after a few weeks of awful, horrible news. Reggie’s art surpasses the label of being musical comedy tonight and hits somewhere a bit deeper, and the deserved standing ovation at the end of it is proof that this was a very special night indeed.



Note - A few fans waited by the stage door to meet Reggie later, and luckily for us he came out to meet us, and luckier still, he’s about the nicest man you’ll ever meet. Learning everyone’s names, shaking hands, giving hugs, paying attention to questions, he’s as kind offstage as he is on. He’s the real deal.

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I can’t with Tarons laugh :’)