Review: Kevin Hart’s energetic show let down by cheap shots

Kevin Hart’s belligerent personality raised the energy in a mostly enjoyable, super-slick 70-minute set.

Kevin Hart performing. Thaddaeus McAdams / FilmMagic / Getty Images
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Kevin Hart was taking no chances. Friday night's du Arena show was the last international date on the stand-up comic's What Now? world tour, which will be immortalised on the big screen with a concert film due for release this year.

Hence, the constant warnings from venue staff on the loudspeakers to put the phones and cameras away, under threats of immediate expulsion.

While irritating, the repeated reminders did set up a sense of expectation. With the 36-year-old superstar guarding his material so jealously, surely it had to be amazing – right?

Unfortunately, some of that promise was let down a little by the stage set-up. The American dates on the tour featured impressive production values and an elaborate set, which helped the shows live up to Hart’s promise that they would evoke the spirit of a rock concert.

In comparison, the international leg was more akin to a series of garage gigs. The set consisted merely of a billboard image of Kevin Hart in a suit and, of course, the obligatory stool.

Fortunately, Hart’s belligerent personality raised the energy in a mostly enjoyable, super-slick 70-minute set.

If you are fan of Hart’s movies, you would have been won over immediately thanks to the comic’s channelling various characters through out the show.

They were hints of petrified police officer Ben (from 2014's Ride Along) when Hart discusses his exaggerated fear of animals, while neurotic Cedric from 2012's Think Like A Man came through in sections discussing friendships.

Hart’s success lies in giving people what they want – but while that continues to work at the box office, it is beginning to hurt him in the stand-up stakes.

While each of his comedy specials was a bigger event than the last – 2009's I'm a Grown Little Man was recorded in a small theatre, while 2013's Let Me Explain was shot in an arena – Hart's domestic-inspired material has failed to evolve with his international stature.

With so much going on in the world and the life experience Hart has accumulated over the years – from the recent racial controversy surrounding the Oscars, at which he gave a heartfelt address during the ceremony, to US presidential hopeful Donald Trump dominating the media – it seems a little cheap for him to ignore all of that potential material for scatological anecdotes and that old chestnut of ordering coffee at Starbucks.

With a little bit more of the harder-hitting, topical material, he would be well on his way to becoming the “comedic rock star” he strives to be.