He claims to have jettisoned “I Will Survive” and “Two Little Boys” on advice from his therapist, but it takes only a few minutes on stage for that trademark flick of the highly coiffed head to let us know that the Bob Downe we know and love is back in town.
The rumours abound. Has Downe been living a lie all these years, without knowing he was living a lie, and does that mean he couldn’t have been living a lie if he didn’t know it was a lie? The King of Polyester doesn’t mince his words. A burning question indeed.
It’s at least two decades since I first took my then-teenage son to see Bob Downe in the Adelaide Fringe. We were on a nostalgia trip last night – so the cameo appearance by Willsy, who was the TV weather girl back then, was a bonus.
Would we still get those high-camp antics and the slick repartee that had us laughing and then spending the rest of the night recalling and repeating?
Bob’s fashion sense, with a predilection for the Ken-doll safari-suit look, hasn’t changed. Tick. That mouthful of teeth grinning cheesily, and the audience already laughing in anticipation, took us back in time. Tick. The high-energy performance, engaging with the audience and throwing in a plentiful supply of local and current references, was everything we remembered. Tick, tick.
And he can sing as well. “Sweet Caroline”, “Dream a little Dream”, “24 hours from Tulsa” (or rather Goolwa), a Beatles medley including “Get Back” and “Please, Please Me”: these are just a sprinkling of the songs Bob starts – but doesn’t always finish.
He’s aided by The Full Catastrophe – John Thorn (keyboard), Sam Leske (guitar) and Holly Thomas (drums) – which not merely a backing band, but plays a pivotal role in the show.
Bob, Sweat and Tears is an hour of comedy, surprise guests and great music. A fun night. And I have another burning question: how does he manage to stay looking so young?
Bob, Sweat & Tears is at the Arts Theatre until March 15.
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