As a society, we take exception to things being faked; orgasms; friendships; wills. Upon discovering such simulation, we get quite annoyed. We like our music fresh and original, not regurgitated and recycled. That being the case, how does one explain the extraordinary success of Beardyman? This is an artist who’s yet to release a proper record, and yet consistently sells out auditoriums. This is a man whose entire career is based around faking other people’s music and simulating their beats. It’s ersatz entertainment. By rights, he ought to be lumped in with karaoke singers and pub covers bands. Instead, Beardyman is forging his own stratospheric trajectory by riding roughshod over the oeuvre of other artists. That can’t be right, surely?
A diverse crowd have gathered in Assembly; students; Fringe performers; curious reviewers. A middle-aged woman in tracksuit bottoms shuffles to her seat with the aid of a walking stick. By the looks of it, it’s been a while since she last left the house, but tonight, she’s here to witness this kaleidoscopic, chameleonic wonder.
To put into words the soundscape that Beardyman creates using a set of tonsils and a bank of effects is nigh on impossible. Yet somehow he does achieve the impossible, and thus it behoves me to attempt the same feat. Tonight, our beatboxer-cum-comedian-cum-whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-him references and impersonates the following: David Bellamy, Stephen Hawkings, balloons, gabba, the south of Spain, James Brown, Tony Blair, a vicar, ice cream, a baby in a blender, trains, cats and dogs. The next time he performs, his set will feature none of the foregoing. With an unlimited jukebox on the tip of your tongue, there’s no need to pull the same record out the bag twice.
In the style of an improv musical, Beardyman has the audience shout out genres and themes before merging them into compositions that are startlingly original and yet entirely familiar. We get Top Gun and Elvis mixed with hip-hop and drum & bass; ginger hair and donkeys merged with dubstep and polka. Before long, the crowd are on their feet, swaying along to the sub-bass that is exploding through the auditorium. Even the disabled woman has thrown down her stick and begun dancing rapturously. If the benefits department are watching, she’s busted. After segueing into ‘I Am The Resurrection’, Beardyman stops short of turning water into wine, but only cos he’s saving that one for next time.
Just as mankind was always destined to invent the wheel and discover nuclear fission, there was always going to be a Beardyman, an artist capable of slicing through every aspect of our culture, deconstructing and then reassembling it before our eyes. We should just be grateful that he showed up in our lifetime. Beardyman may be a product of this generation, but he spans all of them. When the only limits are your imagination, there are no limits. Move over Chuck Norris – there’s a new hero in town.
This is the full, unabridged version of a review I wrote for the Fringe publication I’ve been working for this month.