Love You & Hate Covid

Jonny and the Baptists
Jonny and the Baptists
Pound Arts, Corsham, Wiltshire

Jonny and the Baptists

Much of the charm of any live show given by Jonny and the Baptists lies in its unpredictability. However, this virtual online tour takes that to unprecedented heights, judging by their notional stop at Pound Arts in Corsham.

Just to clarify, this critic was sitting at home in London watching Jonny Donahoe, Paddy Gervers and their keyboard player Rob Sell (?) playing somewhere else in London, but replicating the performance that would have happened had their previously planned tour reached a favourite venue in Wiltshire, if that makes any sense.

You have to give the team credit. They were socially distancing at a secluded spot, while trying to give the impression of playing a live concert to an audience that was spread around the world rather than sitting in front of them applauding and offering highly valued feedback.

In addition, the evening featured the whole gamut of technical problems from a camera that didn’t work, dodgy audio, missed lines, corpsing (by Jonny), a technical error and, to cap it all, even a spell with the dreaded blue screen, which sent this viewer into a brief panic.

As a result, there was even more ad-libbing than usual, some witty, some brave and some panic-filled, as the duo waited for their little world to right itself.

This also meant that the performance took longer to warm up than might otherwise have been the case.

This show, which had originally been christened Love You & Bastards while it was playing to real people, moved the duo away from their normal comfort zone of political satire bordering on agit prop and took them into the world of love.

However, for Paddy and Jonny, most love songs are still invaded by their underlying need to attack capitalism and figures of authority such as Winston Churchill and HM the Queen.

Viewers who were wondering about any connection with COVID would finally have had their qualms settled by a five-second-long ditty in the notional interval that told more truths about Dominic Cummings than any interviews in the Downing Street rose garden or defences from his Cabinet fan club.

Otherwise, the songs centred on love in the very widest sense of the word. The funniest was “If I Were God”, suggesting witty ways in which the world might be improved. The deity also featured large in another shaft of wit involving the nine-year-old Isaac’s view of his Old Testament near-death experience.

On the comedy front, the closest competition came from “Where Does it End” featuring a series of offensive tweets and pacifying responses.

However, belying their normal aggressive attitudes, the pair also delivered some highly poignant songs, one dedicated by Jonny to his partner and two-year-old daughter, while Paddy had his moment in the limelight delivering a lovely eulogy to his late mother.

While watching Jonny and the Baptists online can never live up to the experience of seeing them perform in front of an enthusiastic live audience, this is a brave venture that entertains and deserves to draw big audiences, while we all wait for a return to stage normality.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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