They'd be great music teachers!
Review: Conchords play the Hollywood Bowl
May 31, 2010 | 3:24 pm
These Kiwi guys ought to have their own television show.
A band meeting was held at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday night â€“ Bret McKenzie, present; Jemaine Clement, present; Murray Hewitt (Rhys Darby), sadly, not present â€“ and despite the absence of their winning band manager, the New Zealand comedy duoâ€™s hilarious set worked as well on the big stage as it did on the small screen.
The Conchordsâ€™ soaring performance of understated humor, wry observation and inspired mockery underscored televisionâ€™s great loss after they recently abandoned their Emmy-nominated HBO series after only two seasons. In an age of bloated, self-importance and out-of-control celebrity worship, their songs of parody and general mirth served as a lively and engaging antidote.
The practiced comedian-songwriters, who wrapped up a spring tour that traveled through much of Europe and ended at the Bowl, hit all the right notes and targets as they played their way through the recognizable hits from their television series. What became even more apparent during a live performance is the pairsâ€™ musical and songwriting skills. The Conchords sound very, very good â€“ and they might sound even better if their songs werenâ€™t so funny.
They opened with "Robots," which ridicules the dark futuristic fears that surfaced toward the end of the last century. Essentially, the song tells the story of a robot uprising that results in a few changes â€“ some "surface" ones like repainting everything silver, and some deeper ones like killing all the people. (For a nice California touch, Jemaine imitated the voice of the stateâ€™s governor speaking as a Terminator.)
From the outset, it was clear the indie-friendly, near-sellout audience members were enthusiastically in on all the jokes. In fact, most of them dressed like friends of Bret and Jemaine who in the series live in a low-rent New York City neighborhood as they struggle to succeed in the music business.
The fun continued as made their way through mock poignancy of "Hurt Feelings" ("The day after my birthday, ainâ€™t my birthday, mum"), "Albi (the Racist Dragon)," "Bowie" and Bretâ€™s dead-on rendition of Korean karaoke. A particular highlight was the song of seduction called "Business Time," in which Jemaine added in a Barry White-like voice for his would-be lover to remove her "granny panties."
After one wave of resounding applause, Bret quietly replied: "Thank you. Thatâ€™s unnecessary, but thank you."
They also included a song not from their television series called "1353," a love ballad about a young man who wants to court a proper lady in the 14th century. Like most of their songs, the tale is masterfully â€“ and hysterically â€“ told (this time by Jemaine) as he gets a page-boy haircut, rents a large horse all to "woo a lady." (Guess what, it doesnâ€™t go well.)
It was chiefly the Conchords on stage, but they were joined for some of their performance by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra â€“ actually, a solitary musician named Nigel who came out with his cello.
Between numbers, the back and forth between the musicians supplied ample comic punch as well. Their bits about life on tour â€“ living in fear of becoming super-sized like Elvis thanks to complimentary muffins, experimentation with drugs (to fight allergies) and being trapped in an elevator (Jemaine forgot to press the button) â€“ welcomely deflated the often over-romanticized band notions of living on the road.
The Conchords also skewered celebrities and their adoptive causes by declaring their own opposition to AIDS, famine, and ill treatment of whales (theyâ€™re mammals, they shouldnâ€™t be in the water, Jemaine said). It was wonderful to see the Conchords at the Bowl, but if Bret and Jemaine really want to make the world a better place, they should return to television.
-- Martin Miller
Photo: Jemaine Clement, left, and Bret McKenzie. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.
Published: May 31, 2010
Updated: 10:55 p.m.
Flight of the Conchords soar at Hollywood Bowl
By PETER LARSEN
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Not long into the Flight of The Conchords' packed show at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, our two heroes paused to ask the fans on the benches at the back to make some noise, and a distant roar rose up from the hills far above the stage.
"That's a terrifying noise," said Jemaine Clement as the cheers echoed down to the stage.
"It sounds like you're up there watching a different show ... on the other side of the hill," his partner Bret McKenzie noted.
"A better one," Clement glumly added.
And right there you get a nice snapshot of part of what makes this musical-comedy duo so wonderfully appealing. Playing the role of two hapless wanna-be rock stars â€“ on stage as in their self-titled HBO series â€“ Clement and McKenzie always think they've got all the moves ("Make some noise!") even as they never seem to get it quite right.
So on Sunday they talk about the temptations of the road, and we hear about the free muffins they found waiting in their hotel rooms recently. Real muffins, not code for groupies, of course.
They talk about taking drugs on tour, and we learn that when Clement's hay fever acted up, McKenzie decided to get wild and take an antihistamine too. And got very, very drowsy.
All of which makes for funny banter, but even more than the spoken bits of their act, the bigger reason why the Conchords have gone from comedy festival heroes to HBO stars to headliners at the Bowl is the music â€“ hilariously funny and very well-played send-ups of everything from techno and rap to heavy metal and medieval balladry.
Put it all together and what you got Sunday was 21 songs spread over two hours â€“ with "talking parts and lulls" added in, Clement and McKenzie helpfully explained â€“ that left 17,000 or so fans quite happy by the end of the night. (A night, we should note, that represents the first comedy show this big at the Bowl since Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1980.)
The show opened with "Robots," the story of the great robot uprising. "We used poisonous gases," they sing of the dispatching of the humans, "and we poisoned their asses".
"Wow, there really are a lot of you," McKenzie said at the end of the song, and it might have been the one moment all night he was serious.
"Don't get intimidated, Bret!" Clement cautioned.
But there really were a lot of us, especially compared to almost exactly a year when it seemed impressive that the group had sold out the Greek Theatre, which is roughly a third of the size of the Bowl. (If you're curious, the 21 songs at the Bowl on Sunday included 13 of the 17 played at the Greek in 2009.)
The first third of the show focused mainly on their best-loved songs: "Robots" was followed by "The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room" which led to "Hurt Feelings (Tears Of A Rapper)."
They brought out the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra â€“ Nigel, the cellist, after everyone else got laid off â€“ for most of the second half of the show, including old favorites such as "Jenny" and newer numbers including "1353 (Woo Song)," an epic medieval ballad in which Clement sets out to woo a lady (and win a bet from the villagers that he could not).
The opening notes of "Business Time" got a huge response from the crowd in anticipation Clement's Barry White-style tale of Wednesday's weekly love-making.
For "Song for Epileptic Dogs," McKenzie and Clement attempted to divide the Bowl into five or six different sections for a multi-part sing-along. It didn't work all that well in the end, though that only made the moment funnier.
As the night neared the finish, the Conchords genre-jumped even more. "Bowie" spoofed the "Space Oddity" phase of David Bowie's career. And "Demon Woman" sent up every heavy metal move in the book. (Clement, after striking half a dozen matches and finally getting one pitiful stick to briefly light, leeringly shouted, 'Play with fire!" Spinal Tap would be jealous.)
Two songs brought comedian Arj Barker, who plays Dave on the TV series, out for short raps. (Barker and two other comics who appear on the show, Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal, opened the night with short sets of standup comedy.)
A four-song encore wrapped up with "Sugalumps" as both Clement and McKenzie venturing out into the audience to dance seductively for the ladies, shaking both booties and 'lumps.'
That Clement got lost on the way back to the stage? Another perfect Conchord moment, you'd have to say.
Thanks for the setlist and info, skip! More info is alwasy appreciated. The t-shirts you and your wife wore sound excellent. Any pics?
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