Flight of the Conchords : Birmingham N.I.A
Flight of the Conchords
Where: Birmingham N.I.A.
When: 10 May 2010
In the fiction of the TV show, Flight of the Conchords are a struggling pop-folk parody duo, desperate for gigs. In reality, their UK tour has sold out a string of arena dates country-wide. This gig, in Birmingham's cavernous NIA, is likely a nice low-key warm-up for a number of later dates at Wembley.
And it truly is a gig. There's some consternation on the way out from those around me. For some it clearly wasn't what they were expecting. This is no theatrical production based on the TV show. Despite the warm-up act being the brilliant stand-up comic and show guest-star Eugene Mirman, the focus is very much on the music. Of course, the between song banter is ten times funnier than what most bands come up with, but it never overshadows the songs. There's no narrative, no overriding theme, just a huge set of funny songs.
The production values are suitably Conchords: they arrive on the stage in robot costumes to perform the first number, "Too Many Dicks (On the Dance Floor)". When I say robot costumes, I do of course mean wearing silver-painted cardboard boxes on their heads. One thing that's immediately apparent is that, funny as they are, the Conchords are also hugely talented musician. While they're mostly at home both playing acoustic guitar, at various points they take to piano, ukulele, drums and tiny red novelty piano. The addition of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - actually just a guy called Nigel who plays Cello - helps round out the sound.
The issue with comedy songs, of course, is that while they may be musically sound, after you've heard them once, you know the joke, so the power is lost. And many Conchords fans will have heard these tracks far more than just once. But they duo are capable of changing the songs around just enough so that the odd new punchline can be thrown in, keeping them fresh and keeping the laughs coming. They strike a beautiful balance and it works brilliantly.
The set is fun and varied, from rap-parody "Hurt Feelings" (which Germaine later reprises when someone shouts out "I love you Brett!") through "Epileptic Dogs" and the utterly bizarre "Foux du Fafa" which makes you realise how fun the vague memories of French GCSE can be.
It gets a tad self-indulgent towards the end of the main set, with "Bowie" and "Demon Woman" both out-staying their welcome somewhat: they're funny, but the joke is too one-note, and even the brilliant costume changes can't help them.
But things pick up again in the encore: "Business Time" is always fun and there's a bizarre moment when the shouts of requests for various songs suddenly coalesce in to one "Albi!" "Yeah play Albi" "Do Albi!" - unsurprisingly, the Conchords are happy to oblige. A reworked version of "Sugalumps" closes the show, with Brett complaining that the security guards are after his sugalumps as they help him back on the stage he'd chosen to jump off earlier.
A bizarre show, but great. Funny, but brilliant musically too. The Conchords have really found the balance, and their success is well deserved, even if it means seeing them in enormo-domes rather than the tiny clubs to which they'd be more suited. But then without this crazy level of success we'd never get their stories of crazy debauchery while on tour, like the time they ate the muffins in the hotel room while on a diet, or when they got in the lift and forgot to press the button. True rockstars for the awkward geek generation.
Too Many Dicks (On the Dance Floor)
The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)
Think About It
1353 (Woo Song)
Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros
Ladies of the World
I'm Not Crying
Foux du Fafa
Albi the Racist Dragon
We're Both in Love with a Sexy Lady/Sugalumps
Words: Dean Love
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