★★★★ CHRIS ROCK, WEMBLEY Nice to have the controversial US comic back
Chris Rock, another fine alumnus of the comedy factory known as Saturday Night Live, rarely comes to these shores, so his short arena tour was welcome. He last visited the UK 10 years ago as he had been busy with, among other things, presenting the Oscars, voicing Marty the Zebra in the Madagascar films and bringing up a family.
The last subject was part of a lot of personal material in his 90-minute set, much of it about the break-up of his marriage, of which more later. First, though, he addressed the post-Harvey Weinstein world we now live in, assuring us that he no longer touches any member of his on- and offstage crew with anything more than a fist bump.
That was merely a preamble to the kind of beautifully orchestrated routines that long-standing Rock fans had come for, and he talked at length about police violence against black men in America. You would think racist police officers would be bright enough to occasionally shoot a white person just to make it less obvious, he said, dripping with a mixture of sarcasm and outraged innocence.
Using the Las Vegas shootings to point out just how idiotic US gun laws are, he wrapped up this section by offering an original take on how we can stop guns getting into the wrong hands, and snarkily took down the gun lobby's suggestion that knives are as dangerous as guns with some nicely delivered role play, in which potential stabbing victims would patiently wait in line to be killed by a mass murderer wielding a knife.
In an energetic, fast-moving performance that covered a lot of territory, from Trump's Muslim ban to airline security and finding God, Rock gave us his tips on child-rearing. He's for bullying in schools because it teaches children a valuable life lesson, that geeks will eventually come good – “Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook after someone smacked him in the face with a book” – and he teaches his children about being black in a white world by making everything white in his house “hot, heavy or sharp”.
It is the messy, bitter breakdown of his 16-year marriage that forms the core of Total Blackout, and Rock appeared to give an authentic apology for his cheating ways and addiction to porn. But despite his penitent tone, this last third of the show soon meandered into the lewd – if very funny – sex comedy that Rock is known for.
Some of the men-versus-women material sounded previously used, and I could have done without Rock's seemingly entrenched notion that all male-female relationships are predicated on the “men earn, women spend” principle. Yet his payoff referencing two of his heroes, Michelle and Barack Obama, was so stonkingly good that I could forgive him.
Rock reflected on his failings as a husband, while liberally offering advice to any couples in the audience about how to keep their relationships fresh. He talked with refreshing honesty, too, about getting back in the dating game in the age of Tinder – and a quick aside about hitting on Rihanna, who at 29 is just over half his age, was delightfully self-deprecating.
It was nice to have him back.