Edinburgh Fringe 2013
"Two parts Dave Allen to one part Rev. Billy Graham makes David Mills and explosive comedic personality. In the Gospel Truth, Mills is possessed by the spirit for a hilarious comedy revival meeting. Expect droll, stylish stand-up and inspirational rants. Mills dissects celebrity, relationships, politics with cutting accuracy. Sharp-tongued cocktail swagger plus fire and brimstone equals an hour of caustic comedy."
A few days past I was standing in the que for theSpace Niddry Street thinking art-filled thoughts as to the nature of this and that. All at once I became aware of a figure across the street, flyering outside the Hive. As a general rule I only notice flyers if they are female and blonde…or brunette, or black-haired or a red head. The dapperly dressed dude across the road was seemingly, somewhat incongruously, associated with said Hive –ask an Edinbugger for the hilarious nicknames by which the venue is known and you’ll get the drift of my point. If I had followed my own advice and curiosity, I’d have gone over then and there to ask him how he did. Instead I stood behind my sunnies glancing (discreetly) at the shapely ankles of the girls in front.
Luckily, I had the great good fortune to encounter David Mills a few days later – this time on the High Street. We got chatting and it turns out he has a stand-up show on at the Hive. His flyer is as good looking as the Louisiana Sours (a Perique Tobacco Liqueur infused variant on a Jack Rose) I was sampling in the Assembly Club Bar the day before. I can’t speak to the flyer’s taste but It convinced me there and then to take a punt on Mills – it paid off spectacularly.
Say what you will about the Free Fringe, plenty do, but those guys get audiences. Mills is playing to standing-room-only a concept entirely different from ‘sold-out’ which describes a certain familiar Fringe company better than it does their box office returns. Mills has gathered his flock for what is billed as ‘a comedy revival meeting’. I’ve steeled myself to sit back boredly through another lame (not very funny) one character act featuring the Reverend Yankee Basher. Instead I spend the following hour on the edge of my seat howling with laughter at the Sinatra of stand-up. The show is nowhere near as naff or formulaic as the billing blub suggests.
Mills’ material is an alpaca blend of social commentary, wry observation, wordplay and crackling audience interaction. He’s so detached he could be observing proceedings from the ISS – he’s way too cool for (old) skool. This approach lends him not just an air of absolute, masterly authority but makes his beautifully distilled material flow like dry gin over lime. Some people wish they had seen live performances of Dean Martin or the Beatles singing songs. I wish I had heard them cracking jokes. David Mills is the nearest I’ll ever get. His material is edgy but never crosses the line into bawdy or mean – he singes but never burns. I’d hire him for my kid’s bar mitzvah if I had a kid and the kid was sharp enough.
Mills’ southern US lilt slides gracefully across a range of John Bull British themes, not as an outsider, but as an acute observer who has lived in London for the past decade. If Sting ever wanted to release a Reversey-Percy of his Englishman in New York Mills would be the guy to base it on. His cutting wit and intelligence allow him to engage with Scottish themes too (and with more success than Beethoven). I’m entirely prejudiced in favour of anyone who opens with a salvo against Glasgow…east side is yon best side.
Mills deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Dave Allen or Reginald D. Hunter. The Hammersmith Apollo has been restored to all its art deco splendour to showcase just such an act. A legend is in the making.