Sub-zero temperatures and train strikes were never going to keep Peter Kay fans away from the 02 Arena. His appearance had been anticipated for five years, when his last tour was canceled for private reasons. So was the Better Late Than Never show worth waiting for? It was a lifesaver, but it worked in spades in the end.
Kay has lost some weight, but has hardly reinvented himself for his epic tour, which includes groundbreaking monthly concerts here through 2025. His material is still heavily based in unashamed nostalgia. Most of the audience of hers seemed to be over 30, and you may need to be almost twice that age to recognize some of the references of hers.
But there were many who clearly did as the first half quickly transitioned from Christmas Cracker jokes — “karajoke” — to a sing-along commercial. If Kay hasn’t arranged an endorsement deal or at least substantial free samples of Club Cookies, Mars Bars, or Fairy Liquid, she’s missing a trick.
And of course there were his catchphrases. She can’t buy garlic bread at Morrisons anymore, she said, because asking for it makes everyone laugh. He claimed to have only appeared in an episode of Doctor Who so he could crack a joke about ‘Dalek Bread’.
Elsewhere he compared the past to the present. Blockbuster Videos on Netflix, massive mail order catalogs on Amazon. No book token prizes for guessing which ones he prefers.
One change for Kay was that he too now talks about his mental health, albeit lightly. He explained that her OCD means she has to eat every cooked bean in the can and puts duct tape around hotel door frames so keep the light out of her. The latter led to an extraordinary anecdote about a family trip to New York dominated by the search for a cup of English tea.
Now that Kay is 49 and truly middle-aged rather than prematurely middle-aged, there was the inevitable routine of intimate doctor visits. Her account of being treated for kidney stones had the entire male contingent laughing and gasping at once. My legs remained firmly crossed the entire time.
A vein of sentimentality also ran through the show, particularly when she talked about her late grandmother. Kay took a break from the relatable banter to play a recording of their conversation about her funeral plans as a montage took the levels of saccharine to new heights.
And then suddenly he was gone, before returning and asking everyone to keep his spectacular encore a secret. Let’s just say he wasn’t strictly comical, but because he shoveled surprise after surprise, he definitely made everyone smile.
Next show January 21, then a monthly one through April 2025; theo2.co.uk