How heartening, then, to go to a preview of his new show Dandylion Mind last night at the Leicester Square Theatre and, to a go a bit Simon Cowell on you, be completely blown away. I'm sure seeing him a smaller venue helped (the main room holds around 250) but I think the show itself generally works better too. There are fewer set-pieces, and more rambling shaggy dog stories that don't seem to have much to do with each other - going to deepest Colombia with Sean Lock armed with nothing but a few biscuits and some weed, for example, and an impassioned rant against Michael Winner - but are actually beautifully tied together in the last moments of the show. In other words, it has all the satisfaction of well thought-out structure with none of the constriction.
There is also fun for fun's sake - we sing California Dreaming for no apparent reason - and are introduced to Bailey's new toy, the Tenori-on, an electronic device that turns any image or pattern you draw into music. There is also a moment of superlative musicianship during his version of Gary Numan's Cars that I won't spoil, but is so impressive and so joyful that it's probably Worth The Ticket Price Alone.
With a bad back and clearly suffering from a nasty cold, Bailey could have been forgiven for being a bit below par, but on the contrary he seemed really up for it, and was clearly bouyed by what was an incredibly appreciative Saturday night audience. An early, random shout of "giddy-up!" from the fourth row became a running joke, and a hearty "THANKS FOR COMING!" near the end also got him giggling - always a delight. (Good heckling should be encouraged at Bill Bailey gigs by the way - his impromptu flights of whimsical fancy are a privilege to be witness to.)
A master of clever, bizarre imagery and, of course, a musical maestro, Dandelion Mind showcases Bailey at his very best. He's at the Wyndham's Theatre throughout November, and I'm already planning on going again. Wonderful stuff.
EDIT: I was planning to use the phrase "This show has more fake-endings than Hampton Court Palace maze" but I forgot. Dammit. Not a complaint, by the way; the show builds brilliantly towards the 'proper' end.