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

It’s not just the way they tell ’em.

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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.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.