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Live Review: Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Rutles

It’s not just the way they tell ’em.

Billed as a 50th anniversary celebration, this rare sighting of the Dad’s Army of Dadaist pop is a joyous but chaotic affair. Beloved by The Beatles, Monty Python, Stephen Fry and Phill Jupitus – all of whom they have performed with – the Bonzos may have lost their legendary frontman Viv Stanshall 20 years ago but his former comrades are keeping his impish comic spirit alive. While some original members on stage are now well over 80, Neil Innes, at 70, is a fresh-faced youngster by comparison.

Innes opens this show with The Rutles, the Beatles spoof band he formed with Python Eric Idle in the 70s. Superbly crafted songs such as With A Girl Like You and Doubleback Alley are more affectionate pastiche than mocking parody, while Cheese And Onions predicts the entire Oasis oeuvre in five minutes of sarcastic psychedelia. It is easy to see why John Lennon loved these songs.

The Bonzos play two sets, spanning both their early 1960s jug-band jazz phase and their more rock-friendly late-60s period. Innes and comedian Michael Livesley share vocals and fruity wordplay on vintage classics like The Equestrian Statue and Canyons Of Your Mind amid a ramshackle clamour of euphoniums, banjos and tubas. It’s whimsical and self-indulgent in places, but also gloriously surreal and very English. Humour dates, but absurdist anarchy never gets old.

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