The Horne Section are an unusual live proposition, simultaneously all high-kicking big band extravaganza tempered by a slightly ungainly, ramshackle approach. Led by stand-up and creator of the hugely popular Taskmaster game show, Alex Horne, the six-piece outfit brought their current show to Coventry as part of their biggest tour to date.
That confluence of silliness and deft, fiendishly clever comedy has always been evident in Horne’s solo stand-up, marrying the unconventional and the curious to much more familiar backdrops, and the Horne Section – in their live shows, Radio 4 series and last year’s TV special broadcast on Dave – have taken that even further to concoct shows of joyful wonder which would nevertheless be difficult to explain to anyone who’s not already in on the joke.
Appearances from old favourites such as ‘Henry Hoover’ and other songs familiar to long-time fans rubbed shoulders with new offerings, and a Taskmaster-style competition between audience members which involved toilet roll, a blindfold and more (literal) Marmite than most comedy shows care to boast.
A mixture of visual, verbal and musical jokes, That’s How I Like My Tour was successful despite not really conforming to expectations of a modern live comedy show – it was carefully structured, though seemingly more for the purposes of maintaining the kind of high-energy approach necessary for their often whimsical and even nonsensical material to really flourish.
Musical comedy is often regarded with much less esteem than stand-up, but the most successful acts in this sub-genre use their songs and instruments as a mechanism for telling different types of jokes than would otherwise fit. The Horne Section have an inherent grasp of this; the bond between stand-up comedian and his musician friends succeeding because they understand and experiment with the form.
After two hours of wilfully daft gags and (sort of) glitz, the Horne Section left the stage to rapturous applause. It would perhaps do them a disservice to suggest they were all playing from the same sheet music, since there was plenty of improvisation and surprise as part of this accomplished performance, but their ability to reflect each other’s strengths, clearly on the same wavelength, was evident here. A brilliantly funny, and fun-filled, evening.