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August 15th, 2003

My Drums Hell

Ask anyone in a band, and they’ll tell you that drummers are generally loners and mentalists.
For some reason, comic Gordon Southern always wanted to join their ranks.

But he’ll never make a decent drummer: he’s too personable, funny and reasonably mentally balanced.

That’s no reason not to write an Edinburgh show on the subject, though, and it gives him the chance to appear on stage with a drumkit, even if he needs the expert help of Jayson Stillwell to get the best out of it.

The slightly clumsy premise is that Southern wants to follow the same path in life as one of his drummer heroes: Either The Who’s Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham or The Beatles’ Ringo Starr. Thus we examine each of their drink and drug-fuelled lives, cut short in two cases and cleaned up in Ringo’s, to decide which he should emulate.

As a structure, this doesn’t really work that well. Moon and Bonham’s characters are too similarly destructive to make them distinctive, and Southern has to keep labouring the decision he’s trying to make – basically because the audience doesn’t inherently care; we’re always aware it’s only a structural device.

Also each section can drift a long way from the point. A couple of modern clubby tracks find their way into the sections on the Sixties musicians by the most tenuous of methods.

With the exception of a nice middle-class spoof of The Streets, inevitably named The Avenues, the songs that punctuate the show offer nothing special. They are impeccably done, but only moderately amusing. Perhaps, as Southern pointed out, it’s an in-built folly of trying to perform stadium rock to 20 people in a damp cave.

But despite the flaws, Southern proves himself a strong stand-up. Primarily he’s an accomplished raconteur, as evidenced by the tales of his hotel exploits; minnows of bad behaviour compared to Moon’s destructive outbursts, but very entertaining nonetheless.

He also has a great line in banter, both with the audience and with Stillwell, devastatingly effective as the deadpan straightman of the partnership.

Normally some form of structure helps comedians extend their 20-minute sets into hour-long shows, but the one Southern chose seems to hinder him. Yet he’s still created an entertaining hour’s comedy.

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