Flight of the Conchords
Stephanie Merritt The Observer, Sunday 16 May 2010
Flight of the Conchords: Jemaine Clement, left, and Bret McKenzie. Photograph: Angela Lubrano/LivePix
Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement used to describe their fumbling, lo-fi double act as "New Zealand's fourth most popular folk-parody duo", and the premise worked; two inept slackers struggling to succeed in music and with girls, and usually failing on both counts. This idea formed the backdrop to their acclaimed HBO sitcom, but now that they are playing to sell-out arenas around the world, can Flight of the Conchords avoid the fact that they are fully fledged music superstars?
The answer seems to be that they're not quite sure. Over the years the Conchords' shtick in their live shows has barely changed, wisely, since the formula is so near perfect: the low-key dialogue, the seamless ad-libbing and, of course, the songs themselves, highly skilled parodies that offer poignant little stories, celebrate failure or veer away into the surreal.
At Manchester Apollo, they open wearing homemade robot heads with flashing lights for their techno number "Too Many Dicks (on the Dancefloor)", which they go on to deconstruct at great length ("It's also a metaphor, if you look deeper into the lyrics").
Between songs, they treat us to variations on their self-styled "classic anecdotes" from life on the road, which endearingly turn out to be the antithesis of rock behaviour â€“ and also the antithesis of anecdotes, ending predictably in total anticlimax. "There was the time we got stuck in the lift," Jemaine begins, taking off his glasses to wipe away tears. "You tell it, Bret, it's better when you tell it." So Bret begins the tale â€“ constantly interrupted, naturally, by Jemaine correcting him. "Turns out it wasn't stuck at all," Bret concludes, deadpan. "We just hadn't pressed the button." "Classic!" Jemaine declares, doubled over with laughter.
Their secret is in the almost telepathic way they anticipate and riff off each other. Responding to an audience question about Murray (their fictional manager in the sitcom), they play around with the notion of their own characters. "We're not real either," Jemaine explains. "My stage persona is loosely based on the real me," Bret says, nodding sagely. "I think, 'What would I do?' And then I do it."
Of course, the pretence of amateurism was always underpinned by consummate musicianship, and the range of styles they ape is breathtaking, from rap to my favourite new song, a madrigal called "To Woo a Lady", which had me crying with laughter.
There are plenty of old favourites too â€“ "Business Time", "Sugar Lumps" and "Bowie's in Space", which sees them changing into glam rock outfits. It's hard to think of a more complete comedy night out. You'll emerge with your face aching and the image of Jemaine's gyrating crotch indelibly etched on your inner eye for days.
funny schipperke wrote:You'll emerge with your face aching and the image of Jemaine's gyrating crotch indelibly etched on your inner eye for days.
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