Sunday, April 19, 2009
"Flight of the Conchords": A concert recap
As you know, this space is usually reserved for TV recaps and previews, but I thought I'd change it up a little by writing a recap of a concert I attended last night. OK, the concert was by Flight of the Conchords, a musical comedy act that's inspired its own HBO comedy series, so it's still TV related. But I don't typically write about concerts, TV-related or not, so I believe this counts as stretching my repertoire.
Anyway, I saw the Conchords (aka Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie) at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, Penn. last night at 10 p.m. Yes, 10 p.m. I'm not typically a night owl, but the earlier show was sold out.
I was really excited about the concert. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a bandwagon fan, as I hadn't heard of the Conchords before their show started on HBO. But I quickly embraced Bret and Jemaine, due mainly to the TV show's combination of clever songs, deadpan humor and social commentary (yes, social commentary -- one of the recurring themes of this seemingly light-hearted show is poverty. Not only is it one of the few comedies to deal with this issue, it is possibly the ONLY comedy set in New York where the main characters live in a dump and not a glamorous high-rise. End of soapbox.).
When I heard the guys were touring, I had to go. This became even more urgent when I heard the show's recently concluded second season might be its last.
So, my husband and I dragged our weary, aging bones out at what is typically my bed time to enjoy an evening of killer robots, part-time models and racist dragons.
We arrived at the theater an hour before showtime and the line to get in was already stretching down the street.
Of course, we ended up standing in front of the World's Most Annoying Conchords Superfans (WMACS, for short), who literally didn't stop talking about what fans they were the entire hour we were in line! Even more annoying, it turned out that the WMACS were aspiring comedian/musicians themselves, and were attending the show "for inspiration." They were roughly 16 years old (I could be wrong -- now that I'm over 30, I've noticed that everyone under 25 looks like they're still in high school), so I'm hoping they'll one day grow out of their irritating behavior. But it seems unlikely.
When we finally got inside and got away from the WMACS, I was impressed by the venue. I'd never been to the Tower before. It was built in 1928, and was once one of the premiere rock venues in the region. It's a big, old-fashioned theater and my husband and I took a quick spin through it before going to our seats. During our walk, my husband pointed out the Conchords tour bus parked in the street below. This unnerved me. The TV Conchords are struggling musicians who probably ride their bicycles to the handful of shows they're lucky to book. It sort of shattered the illusion to see their actual transportation. Oh well.
About a half hour after we took our seats, the opening act took the stage. It was Kristen Schaal (aka Mel from the TV show "Flight of the Conchords)! She was pretty awesome, though I found the sparkly gold short pants she was wearing to be a bit distracting. Anyway, her act was basically some stand up interspersed with a series of brief, one-woman shows. One was a cautionary tale about marijuana use; another featured a love triangle between a spoon, a pot and a lid and a third was a performance piece in which Schaal played a discarded mattress. For the last bit, she donned a costume in the shape of a giant mattress. The only visible part of her body was her face.
For some reason, this elicited a series of wild catcalls from the audience. Look, it's not that Schaal isn't catcall-worthy, but no woman looks good in a mattress. It adds, like, 50 pounds. Still, I can see the appeal of a woman who carries her own bed with her.
After Schaal's big finale (an interpretative dance number to Britney Spears's "Toxic," natch), it was time for the headliners.
The Conchords. Yay!!!!!
The opening number was awesome -- the guys came out in their robot costumes and dove right into a rendition of the foot-stomping "Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor." It was really crowd-pleasing. I mean, except for the fact that, through the whole number there was a really bright light on the stage, which, for some reason, was shining right in our eyes. So, though the number sounded great, I can't really tell you what it looked like, having been temporarily blinded.
Then it was on to one of my favorites, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room." I'm sorry, that line about being a part-time model just never stops being funny, no matter how many times I hear it.
Overall, the show favored the songs from the second season, which I guess makes sense (though I think the first season stuff was much better). Highlights included a particularly spirited rendition of "Albie the Racist Dragon," and a somewhat slowed-down version of "Sugalumps."
They also did "Carol Brown," one of my faves from the second season (though I preferred the TV version to the live one. Something about the slide show of old girlfriends playing behind Jemaine just made the song more poignant), and the underrated "If that's what you're into."
For some reason, the crowd was screaming for one of my least favorites, the lackluster "Mermaids." What can I say -- Philadelphians are weird. But the guys were good sports and obliged.
Throughout it all, Bret and Jemaine were fun to watch. It's a pretty minimalist show -- them, their instruments, and occasionally a third musician named Nigel. They were also pretty good at handling the crowd (Philly crowds are notoriously boisterous). When a guy in the audience bellowed "MURRRRAAAAYYYY!!!" -- a reference to the character played by Rhys Darby on the show -- Jemaine quickly feigned annoyance.
"That's sort of insulting, really," he quipped.
My only regret is that I didn't hear a lot of my favorite songs. Of course, that's probably because I'm old, and my husband and I were too tired to stay through the whole encore. We left in the middle of "Epileptic Dogs." I have no idea whether they played "Business Time," "Inner City Pressure," "I'm Not Crying" or "Hiphopatpotamus Vs. Rhymenocerous."
If you were at the show and stayed to the end, please comment below and let me know what happened after aged folk like myself left.