Tomas Ford @ The Astor, Perth (27/02/10)

Williamb’s gallery

Mount Lawley, Western Australia. On a hill, on Beaufort Street. In a theatre, or a cinema, which is old and historic and awesome but for some reason isn’t used very often any more except for cultural events or the occasional independent film (which is worrying, yet also awesome). In a small, upstairs lair hidden around a corner, to an intimate seated crowd of around 100 slightly apprehensive yet good-natured punters, a normally demure man of average stature, dressed smartly as some kind of affable Haçiendan chimney sweep, is smashing the fuck out of a computer keyboard. His name is Tomás Ford, and he has just recovered after tripping over backwards and stacking it into his shit.

Tomás Ford’s ‘shit’, for those who are unfamiliar, consisted on this occasion of about a half-dozen (or more) computer screens, painted up and bandied about the floor space at the front of the cinema. Behind him, the cinema screen simulcasts an appropriate mix of low-fidelity footage, Invaders-era video game shenanigans, and a consistently hilarious mix of perfectly self-deprecating and amusingly self-referential slogans. Things like ‘It is now appropriate to lose your shit’, and an extended dialogue on why Tomás Ford is not a DJ, but plays DJ gigs regardless.

After following up his mess-making with an appropriately mellow number during which he used a dust-pan and broom to clean keys off the floor while serenading the audience, Tomás Ford faced the crowd and declared with a grin: “most people in Perth think I sold out down stairs!” (a reference to the cinema’s cavernous main room which is nowadays used for Karvnivool gigs and the like). This comment was, naturally, met with rapturous grins from the full cinema-a perfectly intimate setting for Ford’s first theatre show since his legendarily controversial Tomás Ford vs The Audience gigs back in ‘07.

The first thing that needs to be understood about Ford, who is by now a road-hardened and theatrically accomplished audience provocateur, is that the man’s show, with all its invasions of personal space and outrageously extraverted behaviour, is simply unadulterated comedy from start to finish. Combining pre-conceived ideas with spontaneous hilarity, Ford’s self-deprecating stage demeanour and reflexive banter are the perfect counterpoint to his outrageous on-stage behaviour. In one moment, the entire crowd was cheering for Ford’s mother, who was in attendance and designed his costumes, and the next, were yelling ‘fuck me harder!!’ as the performer introduced his supposed ‘safe word’ for the evening.

There was also music, of course, and aside from a brief acoustic interlude (during which volunteers from the audience assisted by holding microphones and acting as comedic bait), Ford stuck to his staple of brain shattering electro beats, twiddled and programmed using boxes of mysterious noises and knobs. The music itself often seems incidental, but it’s as much a part of the show as anything-and it was nice that, tonight, Ford took the time to explain some of his lyrics and concepts as he lead into re-mixed versions of classics like Five Times and Bash Myself.

For the most part, the awkward social interactions that so often have pub punters baffled and disturbed were actually kept to a minimum-or perhaps they were more contextually appropriate as Ford fell through the audience, hugging people for just long enough for it to be uncomfortable, before moving on to his next folly. Ford made great use of the space though: at one point sliding down the banister above the theatre’s entrance, at another utilising the cinema’s small stage for an hilarious cover of a song from Billy Elliot during which he struck some of the cheesiest Broadway poses known to man.

After just the right amount of time, Ford invited all his guests for the evening to join him down in front of the cinema screen, where he crowd surfed, then serenaded his way through a final couple of numbers. In perfect style, avoiding any uncomfortable final applause, Ford then issued one final instruction: “GO HOME”. To the end, this was hilarious, because naturally the audience had no idea whether or not the man was serious. He was, and Ford soon took to physically evicting patrons, swearing at them if necessary. GTFO.

A great concept, and a great performance, Tomás Ford’s Disco Bunker was rad all round. More stuff like this in Perth please.

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