Jason Byrne Unblocked review: Warm welcome as the comedian opens his UK tour in Newcastle – Helen Dalby
How to make a room full of people laugh when their queen has just died?
It’s a question any stand-up starting a fall run must ask, and I wondered what the atmosphere would be like at The Stand in Newcastle on Thursday as Jason Byrne opened his 2022 UK tour. , both at the Edinburgh Fringe and at concerts on its annual autumn tour, are known to bring audiences to tears – would people be willing to laugh out loud?
They were, and he handled the situation deftly, judging the mood right as he relieved us by immediately referencing what was going on but without any sense at all “and I’m here to make light of it “. It was a softer start from a man who had already made me cry five minutes after taking the stage. But that was just the thing until he said something about a Dundalk woman he was talking to in the audience who let out a whoop of laughter, and we were off.
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A nice touch was that Jason brought a Royal Variety Performance program from one of the years he appeared on the bill, which was a timely reminder that the Queen loves her comedy. He shared some anecdotes from his performances and subsequent encounters with royalty that were good to hear after such a sad week.
I’ve been watching Jason live for 20 years and he’s pretty much the only person in the world who can make me laugh helplessly, until my face hurts. The inducing euphoria is why going to watch his shows is an annual treat and my favorite night of the year.
His audience is made up of regulars who clearly feel the same way: he was met with silence when he asked the audience “who wasn’t there last year?”. There was a strong shared sense of joy and relief to see him so well – this tour is called Unblocked, in reference to his recovery after having five stents fitted last year to treat heart disease.
Audiences also unblocked very quickly last night, enjoying one of the best performances I can remember from Jason, although he’s still excellent. His observations on Newcastle’s obsession with bridges and heartfelt rants about loft hatches and terrible 80s children’s television were highlights, and as always, Jason’s conversations with the crowd resulted in special moments that only happened here.
The show ended with a post-covid throwback to the physical antics on stage that Jason is well known for, with two willing volunteers from the audience summoned to do something gloriously stupid (and hard to describe in a family publication – it had to be there). What resulted was one of those treasured moments that fellow Jason regulars, addicted to that annual pilgrimage to see him, will know – the sound of an audience collectively gasping after several minutes of howls of laughter.
There was real warmth to this show, both from Jason and the crowd, and his last words were a perfect way to end. He said: “Fair play to your queen, she was a lovely woman”.
I always end reviews of Jason by urging people who haven’t seen it live to go – it was an Edinburgh Fringe review that led me to find it and I’m so glad I got it do. There are further opportunities to see him perform in the North East this autumn, as he plays the Durham Gala on November 4 and returns to The Stand in Newcastle on November 21 – tickets available on Ticketmaster here.