Angus Saul

Review: Top Gear Live

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Top Gear S11

Top Gear hasn’t always flirted with controversy. It used to be a programme about testing cars, mucking around and having fun, and showing off the best the motor industry has to offer.

So if anyone thought that Top Gear Live was going to be horribly offensive (the way TG is certainly perceived to be nowadays), they couldn’t have been more wrong.

The live show, which took to the floor of the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, was a return to the old days of Clarkson, cars and comedy, and May and Hammond too.

The hit BBC Two show has always been a magazine-style programme, and it stayed true to form here, with a number of different segments showcasing some of the expansive world of motoring, from racing, to stunts and plain-old supercar appreciation.

The trio kicked off the night by bringing, the now iconic, Top Gear stage straight into the arena, powered by a turbo-charge V8 engine, throwing in some doughnuts, and, after some trained stunt drivers wowed the audience with their super-slick routine, the show hit real form.

Some of the TV audience is in adoration of the supercar, others want to see the star in the reasonably priced car. Me? I tune in for the challenges, the home-made vehicles, and the desperately inept problem solving skills of three men with totally different ideas.

In 2013, Clarkson created the P45, the smallest road-legal car. For Top Gear Live, May and Hammond attempted to go one better. May’s unfolds from a suitcase, and Hammond’s is a chair on wheels, powered by electric drills. Then of course, there’s a race.

Later, there’s another challenge. Each presenter is determined to show the packed audience of 3000 that they do in fact know how to drive, drifting through a figure of eight twice, and then performing two doughnuts. The presenters showed their impressive skills, sans Hammond, and then we’re “treated” to a woman with petrol pumps for arms shooting flamethrowers at specially modified stunt cars which catch fire, and screech around the arena at a million decibels.  Impressive? Yes. Loud? Yes. Could I have lived without it? Yes.

A similar segment had cars covered in LED lights, accompanied by ear-splitting, chest-bursting music and two flag-waving girls. Again, it’s a spectacle. Again, it went on too long, and, really, wasn’t what people were there to see. It’s a magazine show though, there will always be segments you don’t like, but they’re outweighed by the ones that you do.

A 100-metre dash between heptathlete Louise Hazel and James May in a Nissan GTR was a memorable highlight, as was the motorcycle stunt cage featuring seven stunt riders.

But the overall highlight, which had fans throughout the arena cheering, was car football. England 5-4 Argentina. I have a brother who despises all forms of sport, but even he was shouting and cheering with the rest.

Top Gear brings it out in people, and the return to old ways was a breath of fresh air from the flagging TV show, now in its 22nd series, and it certainly made for a memorable night.

And on that bombshell, it’s time to go and read something else. Goodbye.

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