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REVIEWS Richard Herring, St David''s Hall.

AS ONE half of 1990s hit comedy duo Lee and Herring, Richard Herring was a cult figure for students and post-pub television viewers alike 15 years ago.

But while former comedy partner Stewart Lee has crossed over into culturally intellectual circles - and wrote the successful Jerry Springer: The Opera, for which he faced moral censure - Herring has lurched from one gig to the next, first as a jobbing comedy writer and more recently as a stand-up comic.

A sort of comedy circuit Peter Pan - he's now 45 - he continues to amuse what may be termed "select audiences" with wry and often near-the-knuckle comedy, rather than go down the more comfortable career path of becoming a panel show regular.

In keeping with his previous studies on the vagaries of life including religion and politics, Herring's current show What Is Love, Anyway? - titled after Welsh songwriter Howard Jones' 1983 pop hit - sought to subvert the concept of romance.

In a slightly uneven set, the first half was clearly designed to elicit shocked gasps from the audience, with various lines which could be termed "off-colour".

After the interval, Herring's style was slightly more subdued, as he spoke at length about his grandmother's battle with Alzheimer's, although he still injected his trademark roguishness.

Along the way, he addressed his youthful obsession and subsequent relationship with actress Julia Sawalha, a story that rings so true that it's slightly uncomfortable.

A seasoned performer, Herring is a pleasure to watch, and his dissections are both enlightening and frequently hilarious.

Herring took to Twitter afterwards to proclaim it one of his all-time favourite gigs - clearly the performer enjoyed it as much as the audience.

[bar] Kirstie McCrum The Frank And Walters, Buffalo Bar, Cardiff ????? mentioned to one of my esteemed colleagues that I was going to see The Frank And Walters, he replied: "They're a novelty band, aren't they?" Actually, they're not.

The novelty tag probably stems from the Madchester-style pudding-bowl haircuts they used to sport during their heyday in the early '90s, their colourful stage uniforms, their mid-song banter and quirky lyrics.

But underpinning it all were some seriously good songs.

Some 20 years on, the haircuts are a bit more appropriate for men of a certain age, but they still don identikit stage gear - including fetching orange ties on this occasion - and they remain hilarious between tunes. And those tunes are as great as ever.

They've also acquired the stage experience to overcome any adversity. When guitarist Rory Murphy snapped a string early on, vocalist Paul Linehan improvised by singing - yes singing - Auden's poem Funeral Blues, with drummer Ashley Keating adding rhythmic accompaniment.

Linehan also coped manfully when the strap on his bass guitar came loose mid-song, adopting a heron-like stance to keep playing.

Another notable momentwas a guitar-driven version of Kraftwerk's The Model, but the real highlights were those self-penned songs from back in the day. Plenty Times, This Is Not A Song, Colours and their biggest hit After All - number 11 in 1992 - all stood the test of time musically. And the lyrics were as clever as ever, notably on the magnificent Fashion Crisis Hits New York.

Having waited two decades to see the Irish trio in action, I was not disappointed. The only sadness was that just 30 or so people turned out to catch Cork's finest in action.

What is wrong with you, Cardiff? Oh well, it's your loss.

[bar] Simon Thomas Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, The Globe, Cardiff ?????ING off in Cardiff to warm up for their appearance at Wembley Arena supporting Frank Turner, these two loveable hip-hop geeks were more Laurel and Hardy than Eminem.

Yet, however much DJ Dan Le Sac and wordsmith Scroobius Pip liked to play the fool, they could not hide the craft and intelligence of their music.

Their shambolic demeanour created a refreshing contrast with the songs' lyrical ferocity and invention.

More performance poet than conventional rapper, Pip was truly a manic street preacher trapped in the body of a geography teacher. He ambled onstage carrying a briefcase before launching into Sick Tonight, a fine call to arms in which he promised to "stand accountable" for his own sins.

Hunched over his laptop, mad professor Le Sac melded breakbeats, futuristic disco and rave into an invigorating soundtrack.

Look For The Woman was a genuinely poignant pop song, complete with bittersweet singalong chorus, while Stake A Claim saw Pip delivering a monologue which demanded that "theGovernment is accountable to us, the people". The bouncy beats of Thou Shalt Always Kill sounded almost old-school in this context, but still had everybody shouting along.

Finally, an encore of Letter From God To Man, their withering "state of the world" address, ended with a burst of electronic noise as Le Sac abandoned his laptop on stage.

It was the perfect reminder that these two class clowns remain improbable trailblazers for UK hip-hop. Wembley Arena was in for a treat. [bar] Steve Gibbs The Osmonds Cardiff Motorpoint Arena Tickets: pounds 27.50 - pounds 29.50 The Mormon music-makers bid farewell to their fans on their final tour.

Cirkus Cirkor Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Tickets: pounds 10-pounds 22 The imaginative contemporary Swedish circus troupe present their affecting new show Wear It Like ACrown. Tel: 029 2063 6464 Tel: 029 2022 4488 Steel Magnolias New Theatre, Cardiff Tickets: pounds 9-pounds 25 Final curtain call for heart-warming comedy starring Kacey Ainsworth, Cherie Lunghi, and Denise Welch. Tel: 029 2087 8889
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 14, 2012
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