Chris Rock at the Royal Albert Hall review: as piercing as ever, but could do with a bit of sharpening up

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 (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Stand-up superstar Chris Rock’s brief UK tour was already eagerly anticipated even before that incident at the Oscars in March. Will Smith’s slap added a further frisson to these British shows. Would the outspoken comic give us his side of the story? Sadly not last night. Apart from one direct quip: “I’m OK if anybody was wondering. I got most of my hearing back.”

He hinted that he might say more in a Netflix special, but for now Ego Death dealt mainly with other big issues, some political, some personal. There is no doubt that Rock is a commanding presence. No fancy video screens here. Just the smiling 57-year-old in the spotlight casting a giant cartoonish shadow behind him.

Like seemingly all major comedians these days Rock addressed the issue of cancel culture, arguing that everyone is so terrified of causing offence they dare not talk and prefer to nod. “Anybody who says words hurt has never been punched in the face,” he joked, perhaps alluding again to Smith.

His Oscars joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith starring in a GI Jane sequel was hardly subtle and there were one-liners onstage that felt similarly uncomfortable. When he touched on the abortion debate for example, there was something distinctly old-fashioned about his comment that he had paid for so many over the years a few more and he’d get a free smoothie.

Yet on other subjects he was as piercing as ever, whether mocking Elon Musk, the Kardashians or wondering if the main addiction these days was an addiction to attention. On the topic of Meghan Markle he suggested the problem was not racism or sexism, but simply “in-law shit”.

He was strongest on politics, with a particularly scathing satirical fable about how God had told Hillary Clinton precisely what she had to do to become President twice yet she blew it both times. Rock added some topical local colour too: “I see you have your own Trump here... I wouldn’t let him run a McDonald’s.”

Towards the end the emphasis was more on himself than on global affairs . He revealed that he is having a vasectomy soon as he recently saw septuagenarian Robert De Niro picking up his 12-year-old from school and did not want to be in the same situation in two decades.

Getting a little sentimental he suggested the world needed more love. You never hear on the news about “kindness breaking out”. It was a welcome sentiment even if it did jar with some of his own remarks. At his best Rock remains a masterful comedian, but, as with his Academy Awards schtick, his live show could do with a touch more quality control.

livenation.co.uk

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