Top Gear LIVE has now left Australian shores. Like many of the cars on show it was a whirlwind affair filled with action. That is a given, but was it actually any good? It was entertaining. Certainly. But I’m not so sure it was everything it could be.
The “show” kicked off with a series of live ads. Some were okay, some were woeful. In fact, the best ad of the night was the one celebrating the 25th anniversary of Virgin Atlantic which was playing on a video loop before the show began.
The show itself was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and, from Top Gear Australia, Steve Pizzati. Jeremy and Richard entered the arena in a Lamborghini Gallardo and an Audi R8. A pretty impressive showing, and at some speed, given the indoor arena. Steve Pizzati followed suit shortly after, predictably, in a Holden ute. Surprisingly, the banter between the three worked quite well. Or at least, better than I expected. I was at the 5pm Saturday session, so the guys had a few shows behind them by this point.
We were told James May couldn’t make it because he got stuck at Oxford Street. An edited photo showing him at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was put up on the big screen. That would have been okay if the gay jokes stopped there. But they didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a cheap joke like anyone else, but they went overboard on the homo jokes. Way overboard.
The first segment was a stunt driving team powered by Alfa Romeo 147s. There were four cars in total and the stunts performed in such a tight space were extraordinary. A great opening to the show, it must be said.
Like the TV show, there was a challenge for the presenters to take. Who could win a race in the smallest car they could build. Steve had a suitcase that folded out into a car. Hammond had a tricycle driven by power tools and Jeremy got around in a jet powered version of himself. You’ll never guess who won. Of course, it was Clarkson. The predictable humiliation for the losers followed. This included Steve Pizzati being asked to have a motorbike bounce on his arse. In terms of comedy value, it was one step away from Fatty Vautin in drag.
The next segment, the Colander of death, really was worth seeing. It was amazing enough when two motorcyclists went round and round in tandem. But this was followed by three, then four stunt riders moving around inside this tiny and seemingly feeble construction. To coin a TG phrase, it was epic. I’m not sure if ours was a flat audience, but I don’t reckon these guys got the applause they deserved.
The Cool Wall was given a run and the audience was invited to vote on the cars by holding up cards which were read by special cameras. Red cards for cool, green cards for uncool. It would have been nice for some of the exotica on show to have been given a few goes on the loud pedal while they were being voted on. I’m sure the crowd would have appreciated the effort.
There was a piece in the middle of the show that had a supposed ninja woman dancing around an HSV W427 doing a few donuts. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be an ad or bona fide entertainment. Either way, it was as bizarre as it was pointless.
A trio of Ferraris came out to lay some rubber and while that in itself was entertainment enough, for an audience consisting mostly of revheads, it was a shame that the music drowned out the engine note.
On the main stage there was an odd looking contraption that turned out to be a makeshift drum kit, supposedly made from left over bits of cars wrecked by the Top Gear Australia lads. Okay, the noise, or music, created from this contraption was not too bad, but there is a reason the drummer is rarely the main gig. It was all filler, no killer.
The audience was asked to drive the reasonably priced car around the Top Gear test track. This was done by creating noise to accelerate and steering was done by showing red or green cards to the special cameras used for the Cool Wall. We sucked! Our crowd posted the slowest Australian time on record. Like I said, I think ours was a flat audience, and here was the proof.
Having said that, the crowd seemed to really get into the familiar Top Gear football, which saw a dive* of Hyundai i30s smashing into each other and scoring the odd goal in between. Pleased to report that, just like the last time Australia and England met in a football match, the Aussies wiped the Poms off the floor.
Finally, the show was reaching a climax and that meant The Stig had to make an appearance. Sadly, it was too contrived and saw him driving around the floor in a Lotus Exige dodging imaginary attacks from an Apache helicopter on the big screen. I’m not sure if the lighting effects weren’t working properly or if they didn’t exist, but the segment wasn’t terribly convincing.
One other thing worth mentioning, our front row seats really did offer great viewing, but a quiet word by the ushers before the show informing us we would have fireworks and flame throwers going off within two metres of our seats would have been appreciated. These effects made for a great spectacle, there’s no doubt, but you certainly knew you were alive each time they went off.
In closing then, the show had many high points, even if it may seem I have focused too heavily on the negative aspects of the performance. Top Gear LIVE does offer a unique experience and despite the format being well removed from the television show, for obvious reasons, the experience was one that would have left most loyal fans with a smile on their face. A quick read of the Top Gear website proves just that.
*AUSmotive was unable to find the collective noun for a group of footballers, and dive was the first suitable word we came across.