Bill Bailey, Arena Birmingham - review

By Kirsten Rawlins | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

He’s cracked it: Bill Bailey has mastered the ideal balance when it comes to live comedy.

Bill Bailey

He is controversial without being offensive, whimsical without being foolish, random without losing the interest of the crowd - and very, very funny.

Add into this already wonderful mix a hearty helping of classically-trained musical talent and some wonderful tales about animals and his travels, and you have the perfect recipe for a superb live show.

Dressed all in black, the West Country comedian entered to flashing lights and thumping dubstep before welcoming fans from ‘Birmingham and the surrounding areas’ - though we soon discovered some hailed from as far as Switzerland and America.

“Good lord, most of Europe is here - ironically,” said the 54-year-old star.

“What an extraordinary time to visit England at the moment - we’re having a bit of a funny turn. And you’ve come on the day of the elections."

From there, Bill spoke about the current state of affairs before introducing the audience to his array of musical instruments and props - from a handpan, to a theremin, an array of guitars, and two buttons, both of which transformed the stage with lights and music; one playing jazz, the other Irish music.

This wacky selection of props - which also included a ‘wonder bin’ - featured heavily within the set, as the Black Books idol performed an array of songs between anecdotes - one of which he hilariously used to display how he would give patients’ diagnoses should he have ended up working in the NHS like his parents.

He also took a few opportunities to mock the Birmingham accent, which went down very well indeed, as well as telling tales of his interactions with the public, the effects of a long-term relationship, the ancient origin of giving someone the middle finger, and how the loon bird is sampled on various tracks in music - and why the puffin isn’t.


Using his musical skill to entertain in the most amusing of ways, Bill also showed the audience how songs written in the major key sound different in minor, and vice versa. An example of this was Star Wars’ Imperial March played in major - making it sound more like a wedding march than the theme tune for Darth Vader.

He also set a series of Theresa May’s speeches to 90s house music, with very funny results, and gave You Are My Sunshine a complete, crazy makeover.

Bill ended the set by playing a series of heavy rock anthems such as Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven on a variety of bells, before performing an Irish jig on the mandola, followed by a ‘rendition’ of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell on electric guitar.

A tremendous show, filled with wit, variety, and talent.

Bill Bailey is easily the best live comedian I’ve ever been to see - and well worth a watch should you get the opportunity. Truly excellent.

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins

Digital Content Manager for the Shropshire Star and Express & Star. Also reviews concerts and events, as well as writing features and celebrity interviews. E-mail me at, or phone 01952 241440.


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