Review: Tom Stade Totally Rocks Tour 2013
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Even Persil couldn't clean up Tom Stade...
The location: Birmingham’s comedy haven, The Glee Club
The event: Day 25 of Tom Stade’s 'Tom Stade Totally Rocks' 2013 tour; a tour that has proved just how popular the Canadian born Stade has become in the last few years. Of course, Birmingham is a venue which resides close to Tom’s heart, having spent six years living in Bilston, Wolverhampton, and it’s clear from the rapturous applause the man receives just how fondly this city holds both him and his unique presentation of the comic form.
Nevertheless, to breeze past the wonderful support act accompanying Tom would be both wrong and against the wishes of the man himself – who makes no secret of his admiration towards his comical cohort – and so our review must start there.
A Bonnyrigg (it's just outside of Edinburgh) born comic who now resides in Newcastle, John has the unnerving responsibility of warming the crowd ahead of Tom’s arrival, a job that is both limitless in its potential and nerve-wracking in its delivery; yet Mr. Scott proved himself both an accomplished comic and - on the flip side - a true compliment to Tom's headline act.
As an introduction was made and a stage presence established, it was clear to see that this was much more than a ‘support act’ for the mighty Tom Stade. With an act as strong as I’ve seen (or should that be heard?) in recent years, John is every bit the equal to Tom, with the pair indulging the crowd with two very different - but equally amusing - styles; while familiar ground is found in the pairs love of the more colourful of the Queen's English ( 'C**t's not really a swear word in Scotland...it's more of a comma' - Scott, John, 2013).
During a 10-15 minute window, John works his way through a variant of subject matters - from gay marriage and politics to religion and pornography - dipping in and out of disparate styles throughout. Impressions, one-liners, stories... Mr. Scott's act has it all, albeit with varying levels of success, but what remains constant throughout is John's commitment to his material and his 'show must go on' mentality. With a unique infusion of passion and nonchalance, the Bonnyrigg born comic is colour amongst the grey, and a personality that you cannot help warm to.
Following a mantra of delivery that Tom himself would be proud of, John's act is relevant throughout, laced with a number of excellent impressions and dollops of intelligence. If ever there was a man deserving of a bigger spotlight it is John Scott, but at present he seems happy, so play on dear man!
An excellent aperitif to our maple-heavy main.
And so...we arrive at our headline...Mr. Tom. Stade.
Having been a fan of Tom's for over fives years, it's safe to say I knew what to expect...or so I thought. Having escaped the glare of multiple cameras and daunting auditoriums, the shackles are well and truly off in this live appearance. Tom arrives to a warm reception and goes about milking his beloved image for a good 3-4 minutes, a liberty unavailable to those without a fan base. After all, this is a man that, had he arrived hammered drunk with no material, would survive a full length performance purely on his captivating stage presence and unique delivery.
However, after a few minutes of introductions - and a bit of light-hearted crowd interaction, which Tom comes back to throughout his act - Mr. Stade finds his feet and entails a series of scandalously authentic scenes, each funnier than the one preceding. Nothing is safe from this guys observational outlook - Groupon, the 'joys' of married sex, many of life's funniest clichés - and as such the audience reaps the humourous awards.
On a personal level, Tom is a tangible example of a rags to riches, riches to rags - then back to riches - story. Having been the runt of the comical litter for some time, Tom found initial success in his mid-20's and, following a deal with CBS around the age of 26, seemed to be set. However, things went sour and Tom found his time at the comical teat dwindling...until a move to the UK and a break on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow sent him back to the top. Since then, crowds have packed into concert halls, comedy auditoriums and any other venue to catch a glimpse of one Canada's funniest exports; but 'Tom Stade Totally Rocks' shows him at his purest, darkest level...a level that makes it all to clear to see why the ever controversial Frankie Boyle took such a shine to him.
Now, for those unfamiliar with the difference between televised and raw, allow me to educate - it's filth. Any comedian looking to break into the consumable media market is required to 'tone down' their material, whether this be through their language or physical gestures. And so, if your experience of Tom Stade is limited to his Live at the Apollo/ McIntyre's Roadshow appearances, be prepared...Tom comes out as filthy as he did at birth. Even for a seasoned Stade-fan such as myself, it was certainly eye-opening (the concept of which was off-putting after hearing about the mans lustful cum-shots).
Throughout the show one thing remains constant...Tom's appealing persona. Whether depicting the rough and ready entry of his wife's 'bum-cave' or his crippling addiction to Groupon's pointless deals, Mr. Stade remains loveable - which, considering the content of his material, is commendable in itself. Furthermore, his ability to link his material to his audience, to make it relatable to their own lives, is part and parcel with his appeal. Whether or not you chose to admit it, you've been in the same position/thought the same thing as the man himself, and so the humour is real; a living entity that you understand.
A few thorns amongst the maple
Having said that, there were times were the material dragged. While a unfathomed level of crudeness is to be expected, even I, ax ex-standup with a very liberal view, was perturbed by the level of said crudeness on display here, and I couldn't help but feel that Tom was running; running from his links as 'that meat-van guy' or 'that fella who talks about his missus'. Sex and such is a comedians safety net, and now and again his act felt just that...safe.
Nevertheless, while this isn't the strongest of Tom Stade, it's by far a weak presentation. In fact, it shows remarkable courage by the man himself, to branch into unfamiliar territory instead of simply coasting through on his well-known material, as many of his peers have done. When he hits the the result is beguiling, the personification of side-splitting humour, and the way in which the material is delivered is, in itself, an art. One must also consider the fact that Tom's Birmingham appearance was the 25th on his tour, and just three from the end. To deliver such a passionate and honest performance after so long is commendable, and credit to his act.
What really sets Tom apart, though, is the genuine love of his art and down to earth nature. As has become a staple of his act, Tom came straight off the stage to mingle/socialise with those in attendance. In a recent interview with myself Tom spoke, in depth, about his appreciation of those who had supported him throughout, and how so much of his content materialises from the stories/experiences of those that have paid to watch him. Such accessibility is a dying trait - and one that many of societies leading comics have forgotten about - so to see it so prominently in person was, quite simply, touching.
Does one Stade away...?
With Tom's last performance this Thursday (21st November) at Liverpool's excellent Slaughterhouse venue, I say this - get down and see the man for yourself. If you're lucky, you'll grab a beer and a priceless memory with him and John after the show. If you're unlucky, you'll still be treated to 45 mins - one hour of comedy at its purest, rawest state.
Alongside the wonderful John Scott, 'Tom Stade Totally Rocks' is one of the finest pleasures of 2013; and at just £15 a ticket (£13 for concessions) the laughs are cheap (in a good way!). Tom himself is one of the best comedians on the circuit - as well as one of the most genuine, friendly individuals I've ever had the pleasure of meeting - and with the release of his first DVD (which is available here on Amazon), it's only a matter of time before he's selling out palladium's and O2 venues.
As Tom himself would say, he'll be 'Mickey Flanagan big' ...so get on down!
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