The good thing about failure is that it’s easy to replicate.
Unfortunately, I think last night in Hammersmith was a success. So now there is the bother of trying to match The Cure singing Close to Me, before Eric Idle came on stage to sing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life to Brian Cox. This was not merely somewhere in the centre of my reality tunnel, it was in a few thousand other people’s too. Even if it never happened, it was a mass delusion…or am I suffering a delusion that makes me believe it was, at the very least, a mass delusion.
I don’t often have performance anxiety dreams, I normally save my anxiety for my waking hours. Like many of us, my panic nightmares have not caught up with my life, and I still find myself unprepared for exams I really passed thirty years ago.
On Thursday night, Hammersmith was hectic backstage. In between my onstage jokes and bullshit to fill in for tables of explosives to be carried on stage or or fumes to clear so that the ensuing singer didn’t choke on their chorus, I would be finding academics, checking on AV presentations, and working out just how over time we were before we’d got to the fourth act. Nothing proves that physicists are still unable to truly understand the nature of time, than watching them ignore it as it passes them by and eight minutes turns to twelve (this applies to biochemists and neuroscientists to, but epidemiologists have crunched the numbers and got much better lately). However rational you may be, one you are in front of 3500 people in a famous rock venue, you are lured towards poor timekeeping and giddy delight in sharing your thoughts on rats or electrons or something or other in a superposition. By the time the tuba parped the opening of The Lovecats, yes, yes, Robert Smith sang that while Professor Cox banged away at the keyboard and Steve Pretty’s jazz outfit mad goth pop brassy, we were 40 minutes over.
In the end, the show finished two minutes before curfew, a mere four hour three minutes running time, positively brief compared to our End of the World show. This time, our audience could leave while much of London’s infrastructure still moved and glowed.
And so my Thursday night dreams, when they came, were of stage shenanigans and producing fuck ups.
Dream One – John Cleese asks me to fill in for Terry Jones in the Crunchy Frog sketch. Not too much anxiety here. When I worry about the words, Cleese points to a box on which the dialogue I need keeps changing, a magical, cardboard autocue, like that Bjork video about the book that writes itself. For some reason, Mr Cleese stops before we get to the nasty fondants and cremes. I protest that this is surely the point of the sketch, but he says it’s fine. We have a cup of tea.
Dream Two – David Attenborough has come along. He has brought with him a selection of slides about the half the size of a postage stamp in a little carousel to be fitted into a tiny slide projector. I drop the carousel and the slides are jumbled. I try to put them back in order, but they are too tiny to make out. David Attenborough is very angry.
I wake up and eat Coco Pops.
None of those things happened, neither the good bits (David Attenborough turns up) or the bad (David Attenborough’s tiny slide show is ruined by a bug clumsy idiot).
Despite the stress, which dissipated at the final minute, once the certainty that everything that could have happened in four hours, from Josie Long attempting to do an equation with 3500 people, to live alchemy, via toroidal vortex smoke ring displays, had occurred.
And, having walked by the Rik Mayall memorial bench on the way to the Apollo, I remembered that this was the venue where I saw Mayall with Bad News. My first Apollo gig starred Rik Mayall, so I couldn’t stand in front of thousands of people and not mention that, or recite the joke, “why did the pervert cross the road? Because he had his knob stuck in the chicken”.
Now, how do we top that next year. I never spend enough time in laurels to get indentations. Next year’s tickets went on sale today.
Brian Cox and I are off to USA next year for a tour – HERE
I am off to Australia for a tour – HERE
And Josie Long and I are doing Shambles podcasts again, and I am still touring UK HERE
Will publish full line up from this year’s shows tomorrow