January 18, 2006

Bill Hicks "Salvation: Oxford, November 11, 1992"

Legendary comedian Bill Hicks only became "legendary" after passing away in 1994, 32 years too young. Though his death was indeed untimely, his legacy of thrusting raw, uncensored political and personal opinion into his audiences' faces lives on--for better or worse. It's probably not much of an understatement to say that Hicks' style has helped ruin modern comedy, as lesser comedians try to ape his style, with little understanding of the subtlety that made him special. Though he may be gone in body, he lives on through his archives, and those archives still find Hicks to be a powerful comedic force.

Salvation: Oxford, November 11, 1992, the latest foray into the archives, is a two-disc, two hour performance recorded at Oxford University in 1992. It's an electric atmosphere; Hicks' performance is a rapid-fire onslaught of everything he believes and hates, delivered to a rather receptive and enthusiastic audience. For Hicks--and America--the times, they were a-changin'. Just the day before, Hicks' arch-nemesis and regular subject for out-and-out attack, George Bush, had been voted out of office. This fact delights Hicks to no end, as throughout the first part of his set, he happily, gleefully sing-songs the phrase "Bush is dead! Bush is dead!" Of course, he quickly realizes that his target being elected out of office would soon mean Hicks would have to reformat his entire comedy career, he yells out, "Bring him back! Bring him back!" Hicks' ability to turn the sword on himself was part of his charm; it's this lack of concern about looking bad that made him so damn good.

As usual, Hicks expands upon, rants about, and unapologetically tackles every possible sensitive issue and sacred cows of modern American society. The truth about drugs? Hicks has the answer. The meaning of life? Hicks has the answer. The real story about what happened with the Kennedy assassination? Hicks has the answer. The importance of children to society? Yep, Hicks has the answer. He delivers these thoughts and opinions and fact with all the rage and the fire and the passion of a man fully convinced that his opinions are right. That Hicks was right is merely an afterthought. Even funnier are his off-the-cuff remarks about English phrases and linguistic styles, and this is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Salvation.This section feels completely improvised, and it quickly makes you laugh, and it highlights just how damn quick and how fast and how sharp his comedic mind really was.

For Hicks fanatics, Salvation might not offer much new material; these routines and bits are classics, and have been heard in many different forms. No matter, though; they're still red-hot and powerful, regardless of how many times you've heard them. This is vintage Hicks, and it's perhaps one of the best representations of Hicks' live sets today. Because these are his more popular sketches, this is perhaps the best introduction to the world of Bill Hicks, as he never was funnier or better than he was here. A prime snapshot of a talent gone way too young.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.billhicks.comLabel Website: http://www.rykodisc.com

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