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The Razz: Live Reviews: A BIG BANANA FEAT; Billy Connolly triumphs as he comes home to tour Scotland Billy Connolly Loreburn Hall, Dumfries, April 6.

Byline: Bob Shields

RAPIDLY hurtling towards retirement age, he could tour Scotland for the remainder of his days and the only empty seats would be those who had passed away in between buying their ticket and the show.

Keen angler Billy has been playing his Scots fans like a salmon for too long now - teasing them with World Tour TV titbits and Parkinson appearances.

But on Wednesday he began to reel us in for for real with his first proper tour for 11 years, playing venues from Lerwick to the Land O' Burns and at prices that wouldn't burn a hole in a welder's wallet.

Billy had played the Loreburn Hall, in Dumfries, years ago and I doubt if they've painted it since. Flecks of gold foil from a generation of Christmas parties were still sticky-taped to its flaking walls.

I wondered when was the last time the Big Yin had played to a hall filled with plastic orange stacking chairs - the seat numbers felt-tipped on white stickers.

Loreburn is a kind of curved aircraft hangar-shaped venue painted entirely in chocolate brown.

The Connolly I first saw 40 years ago might have likened it to performing inside a giant, hollowed-out jobbie.

As I sat in wobbly Seat 29, Row U, coat still on, I wondered if it would be the Big Yin of 40 years ago that would spring out from behind the little black curtain you used to see beside the stage at every working man's club in the land.

But no, the Connolly I saw was the one I witnessed at a benefit in Oxford barely a year ago.

'I was 60 recently,' he says. 'But worse than that, I was 62 even more ******* recently.'

In Oxford, the last number was different, but to be fair, the laugh it got remained the same.

The 800 sell-out audience laughed long and loud for much of the evening.

For much of the show, we were back on a bus in Clydebank, a tenement in Whiteinch, a flat in Partick, the Dowanhill Bar or his late father's hospital ward.

The vacant papacy, Michael Jackson and a forthcoming General Election, all matters topical and ripe for Connolly's barbs, got scarcely a mention. But then again, Billy knows what his Scottish audiences like more than I do.

Which is why he's the millionaire on stage and I'm on Seat 29 Row U trying to take notes in the dark.

Billy was wearing a black T-shirt 18 inches longer at the back than the front.

Have the years turned The Big Yin into Billy Nae Bum? And I could not help noticing the audience was largely over 40 - including their school yearsBut it was also a first night. So someone will tell the lighting people Billy's eyes and mouth looked like black orbs. And the sound people will fix the mike so his lines don't tail off, leaving you straining.

And Billy will no doubt tweak away at his act. The cruise sketch bombed. The Scotland team stuff and the bits about wife Pamela near the end were superb.

If you have a ticket for this tour, hide it under your pillow. Billy may be older, but he's still very, very funny.

And go to the loo before you sit down. This show lasted two hours, 40 minutes. That's a long time on a plastic chair


IT'S THE WAY HE TELLS THEM: Billy; Connolly had the audience laughing their heads off from start to finish
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 8, 2005
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