Ross Noble, The Lowry, February 21 2015

Ross Noble’s new tour is called ‘Tangentleman’, and there are few more appropriate titles for a performance that veers off in so many directions that neither Noble nor his audience are quite sure how they got to any given point. He summed up his own style beautifully when he paused at one point to state, “I’m saying all this, and even I’m confused.” And yet, at no point did he seem anything but in complete control of his set. There must have been pre-planned sections in there, somewhere, but he effortlessly made it seem like the whole thing was freeform, created right there, just for this audience, just on this night.

The fact that he had been in Salford for the two previous nights before this final date on his UK tour, gave him a good starting point to talk about staying in Media City and the joys of wandering the Lowry Outlet Mall on a weekday – definitely something for the student of human nature or research into the results of poor diets it would seem. He also does a perfectly, painfully accurate Manc accent. But, before he got very far someone arrived late and he was distracted, managing to mock them without it feeling as merciless as it was. Trying to sneak into a Ross Noble gig late is definitely not an easy task, but best not try ducking down below the seats to avoid his gaze.

Before long, there had been a heckle in an interesting accent, (people do love to shout things out at Noble, and he seems to love it too) and he had blamed it on the presence of Tiny Tina Turner, who popped up again and again throughout the set, getting progressively funnier and more ludicrous each time. Somehow this shambling, long haired Geordie managed to transform himself into a two foot high Tina Turner with just a gesture and a nasal mumble, and Tiny Tina joined the host of random occurrences that made up this excellent performance.

It’s well known that Noble likes to riff off audience members, but the one moment he was forced to take a breath was when he picked on a group of particularly giggly and vocal young women who turned out not only to be police detectives but when asked what they were currently working on, simply replied ‘paedophiles’ – as he said, the one thing he really couldn’t do anything with. He simply made the fact that he couldn’t tease them about their work the joke, and carried on without a hitch.

And so we learned about ‘Owling’, which will apparently soon take over from dogging as the new nightly pastime of certain elements of society; mainly because owls can’t help sounding sexy. 50 Shades was touched on, as were many more tangents, including being a dad of two young daughters, and his frankly uncanny resemblance to TV’s Neil Oliver, of ‘Coast’ and ‘Vikings’ fame. Once said, it was as if a veil had been lifted – how had we not noticed this before? Likewise, how had we not noticed that Neil Oliver’s delivery involves him matching one word to one step as he strides around the countryside, looking windswept and interesting? It was another surprisingly accurate accent too, such that it may be as well to check if Ross Noble and Neil Oliver have ever been seen in the same place at the same time!

Striding around his wonderfully odd set, bedecked with huge three-dimensional synapses and an almost Giger-esque inflatable backdrop (entirely designed by himself, as is the case with all his tour sets), Ross Noble seemed to have an unlimited supply of both energy and tangents to go off on. It was as if he was performing in a gothic bouncy castle based on the inside of his own head; dark, complex and mysterious, and yet loads of fun, in a deeply bizarre and childlike way. Without seeing him live, it would be easy to dismiss Noble as another comic who simply mines his audience for his humour. Live, what comes across is not the aggressive and belittling swipes that some comics rely on, but a genuine affection in the mockery, and a delight in performing that make him a pleasure to watch. All the audience members singled out were handed a gift by Noble before the end of the show, and on closing, he informed the audience that his fees and all the money from merchandising sales were being donated to ‘Riders for Health’ a small charity that provides motorcycles for health professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa. A lovely gesture from a man who would seem to be a genuinely lovely performer.
Sarah Jane Vespertine

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