Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Alex Horne is an unlikely bandleader. He does not play an instrument and can’t carry a tune in a bucket. He does, however, have the uncanny knack of being able to involve the audience in the show. It is hard to recall another show in which the level of audience participation is so complete. By the second Act Horne has the entire audience dancing in place and secures volunteers to join the band on stage without any difficulty.
The result of this approach is that the show has a constant undercurrent of hilarity so that even the weakest of jokes (and there aren’t that many strong ones) get a big laugh. Horne juggles his keys and it takes awhile to realise he is signaling a ‘key change’. Yep, not many strong jokes here. The band joins in with the warm-hearted atmosphere. When a punter manages to top one of their running jokes on the pronunciation of musical styles they cheerfully offer a round of applause.
It is very much a case of the manner in which a routine is performed rather than its content that makes The Horne Section so special. There is a degree of improvisation but the overall style is ramshackle. When Horne successfully performs a magic trick he is so stunned that it worked, for the first time on the tour, he finds himself unable to continue.
The Horne Section comprises two horns, keyboard, bass and drums. The band is so expert that the members are able to improvise around the whims of their leader. They play the styles of music straight rather than offer parody but all playing serves a comedic purpose. This includes proving the point that all songs sound better with the saxophone solo from’ Baker Street’ inserted
The show works like a dream except for the part for which the band is famed. They challenge themselves by offering musical backing intended to enhance a routine, with which they are not familiar, performed by a comedian with whom they have not rehearsed. It sounds daunting; if they miss a cue from the comedian or perform a chord that is distracting it could ruin the whole routine.
Tonight that problem does not arise as Canadian comedian Chris Campbell pretty much ignores the group. He launches initially into a rap and then switches to a lengthy but funny anecdote from his home country. At no point, however, does he signal the band to come in or even pause long enough to give them a chance to take part. It feels very much like a wasted opportunity – as if the support act has arrived late and interrupted the main show.
Alex Horne, typically, has no trouble winning back the audience from this slight slip persuading punters to mime along with the band on stage. One participant is so enthusiastic that she claims to have suffered a wardrobe malfunction.
The Horne Section is supremely silly and although there is the nagging sense that the show at The Lowry does not go entirely as planned it is a rare chance to get completely drawn into a show that seeks, and manages, to make you laugh out loud.
Reviewed on 18th June 2015