Live Review: Tim Minchin

14 November 2022 | 1:52 pm | Shaun Colnan

“Fuck off, you COVID-riddled giant floating bath.”

Photo Credit: Jacquie Manning

Photo Credit: Jacquie Manning

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As revellers took their places for local icon Tim Minchin, the festival spirit seemed alive and well, with a strange overture by a cruise ship that let out an obnoxious foghorn farewell to the resplendent Sydney Harbour. 

While it did delay the start of the show, the marine behemoth offered Minchin an anchor to counteract his barefoot antics. When taking to the stage to celebrate the golden anniversary of the famous sails, Minchin bid farewell with characteristic flair: “Fuck off, you COVID-riddled giant floating bath.” 

Then comes the less characteristic earnest Summer Romance - a 2020 release that tells a poignant and nostalgic love story that fizzles as quickly as it unfolds. Next, the far more Minchin-esque Airport Piano: “A mid-life crisis song” brimming with witticisms and observational comedy about “women in SUV Porsches [who] always look miserable…and men in cafes in ski resorts, trying to connect with their sons [who] look like they just wanna hit 'em.”

In between songs, Minchin can’t help himself, quipping, “I know this is a festival set, and so I’m supposed to keep talking to a minimum but…” before launching into a long-winded ditty, joking about his audience who expect to be “sitting comfortably having a wine and laughing at puns.” In the one-man melee, the spotlight operator struggles to follow Minchin’s frenetic strutting and fretting across the stage.

But, as he started, he breaks off mid-sentence and launches into another track, taking aim at cancel culture, which he says the media try to goad him into discussing. 15 Minutes is the perfect panacea for such posturing with memorable lines such as “welcome to the glasshouse, hope you brought your stones.”

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As Minchin self-describes, he’s “made an art of travelling from the ridiculous to the sublime”, and such tension exists in the title track from his 2020 album, Apart Together, a romantic 'memento mori' with clever and touching lines like: “I can handle the entropy If you promise to stay with me.”

The obligatory fireworks filled the fans with festive joy while Minchin engaged in some dubious mathematical equation: “The next song is twenty years old, which is 40 per cent of the Opera House.” Rock 'n' Roll Nerd showed his staying power and his commentary on it – “I was verbose early. Loquacious early. So I have to fade out now.” – showed his charming self-effacement.

Leaving LA gave a snapshot of a broken, vapid town with people “trying to improvise their way out of ennui,” while Cheese presented “a song about complex love. An addictive love. A love-hate relationship.” Certainly one of his sillier, funnier songs that implores audience engagement, Minchin embellished the scene by sharing a shot with “a bored audience member” before embarking on a meta explanation of the anticipation of humour and the “greatest cheese pun ever.” While he lost the note, he gained the audience’s appreciation.

Then I’ll Take Lonely Tonight was introduced as “a song about trying not to have sex with other people - performed for the first time with my 13-year-old son in the house.” Again, Minchin strayed the bounds between sincerity and jocularity with this track before diving into “the only cover in this show, which says a lot about me. It’s by the greatest songwriter of our time: Billie Eilish.” His rendition of Bad Guy is a hodgepodge of styles, mashed together with high-energy escapades that prompt him to decree breathlessly: “47! I feel like Paul Simon trying to be the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.”

He lived up to his self-styling as a Rock ‘n’ Roll Nerd, as he made a booboo and took a band-aid from an audience member before asking for more tequila. Then he rounded out the show with a tongue-in-cheek tip-of-the-cap to the cruise ship support, the Sydney sails and to his chagrin, “the most popular song of his on YouTube”: Prejudice, a clever catch-cry of the ginger clan with the infectious hook: “Only a Ginger can call another Ginger Ginger.”