Bob Flag at The Lincoln Lounge Kings Cross

Bob Flag was already a veteran of pub entertainment when he briefly joined and then promptly left Alternative Cabaret at its inception in 1979. Around the same time he also played the first night of the Comedy Store, but there too he curtailed his regular appearances pretty early on. These arguably wrong career moves left him out of the Alternative Comedy wave that followed. He has since ploughed a fairly lonely artistic furrow - a radically scaled-down up-dated version of US 50's jazz comedian Spike Jones; with nods to Bob Kerr's Whoopee band, Spike Milligan and the larky end of British performance art - Bruce Lacey et al. That said, experiencing Bob Flag in the 21st century seems more pertinent than might be expected. The Lincoln Lounge Kings Cross is a bit like an American or Irish-style walk-in bar with a long bar-counter down one side of a slim room and a bit of space at the end for more seating and with doors to toilets etc. Bob Flag and Otis B Driftwood plus sundry sidekicks (including Flag's partner - Japanese performance artist Takae) have set up their stage area facing the bar, which means that apart from those few stalwarts stood directly in the firing line, the room is split in to 2 halves. Unconcerned by such considerations they perform their bizarre concoction of burlesqued popular jazz standards and Monty python-style comedy routines with an approach that can best be described as an unashamed total commitment to nonsense. The noisy, talkative yet oddly appreciative 40-strong crowd that includes many regulars, for the most part join in on choruses, laugh readily and applaud heartily at the right times. While Flag sings, drums, MC's, messes around with amateur-night scenery and plays more than acceptable sax and trumpet; Driftwood ably accompanies him with some choice yet deliberately cheesy keyboard. Some of the pieces are over 30 years old and the props are held together with love and gaffer tape - Jaques Costeau's Undersea World to the tune of Je t'aime and played through a hole in a blue double bed sheet (the sea) hasn't changed since the original track was chart-topping; other stuff is bang up to date. 'Gypo Queen' about British Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket's efforts to stop the war in Lebanon while on a working caravan holiday is as fresh and daft as it sounds. Flag is the creative force here; it's his compulsive surreal vision that pushes it all on; if someone else takes a solo or performs a complete song, you can be sure Flag will have made an effort to change costume and/or re-arrange scenery and be ready to introduce yet another helping of inspired surrealism. Oh yes, it may be rubbish, but check the label Mrs - it's British rubbish.

Tony Allen Aug 2006