Michael McIntyre – Live Review – Leeds Arena
By David Schuster, May 2018
Five minutes into tonight’s performance and Michael McIntyre is striding across the stage in his trademark fashion, mimicking a Geordie dodging dog dirt on a Newcastle beach. I’m laughing, alongside the other 13,499 people filling Leeds Arena. The roar of approval from the crowd is remarkable.
The comedian has long since surpassed the status of national treasure, selling over 1.5 million tickets in the UK alone, and has now become a global phenomenon. Tonight’s performance is part of his ‘Big World Tour’. The title is no ironic exaggeration, he is taking his one-man performance to arenas across the globe including America, Australia, Singapore; it’s a long list.
We arrive 45 minutes beforehand, to join the stream of people heading out of the city towards the arena. A car stops to let the flow of people cross the road. The driver rolls down his window and asks who is performing. “McIntyre!”, someone shouts. The driver nods and smiles, no other explanation is necessary.
Entering up steps from underneath the stage, his voice is a little hoarse to begin with, but that’s understandable. He takes a sip of water from a bottle at the side of the stage, the crowd clap enthusiastically. “You don’t have to clap me drinking,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. From that point on it becomes tonight’s running joke, with each mouthful greeted with cheers.
Surprisingly, arena comedy works. He looks small, but not lost on the stage, his schoolboy-chubby form projected with superb clarity and crisp audio onto three huge screens. Somehow, through the wonders of the human brain, both are melded together, so that everyone gets a good experience. He alludes to this at one point when, standing at the far left of the stage, he notices that the majority of the people are looking at the screen, and not at him. “I am here in person you know”, he says, with mock indignance.
The funniest story concerns Hong Kong and the pollution masks that many of the people living there often wear. By this point the lady in front of me is laughing so hard that she can hardly breathe – and she’s not alone.
Performing across several continents also provides McIntyre with rich material on the differing audience reactions: Confusingly people in Norway clap in time. “Reviews in America tend to be made up of superlatives”, he observes: “McIntyre rocks!”, “He blew the roof off!”. Whereas in Britain the best it ever gets is “he didn’t disappoint”.
We’re left wanting more, but not for very long. The comic acknowledges the obligation to exit the stage and returns almost immediately for an encore. He closes with a cleverly observed anecdote about those dog breeds that love humans, and those that clearly don’t.
Michael McIntyre didn’t disappoint. There is no higher praise in Britain.