Flight of the Conchords | 04.30.09

conchords.jpgI’m not sure what was better, the string of their most absurd and popular songs or the subtle and witty banter in between them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fabulous Fox Theater, St. Louis

From the first time I witnessed the quirky HBO comedy series Flight of the Conchords about two socially inept musicians from New Zealand comprising a band of the same name, I was hooked. The nearly child-like innocence of their "characters" juxtaposed with their bold, cocky and hilarious song performances makes Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie irresistibly funny.

Long popular in New Zealand and Australia, the musical comedy duo gained global exposure through their BBC radio series, comedy festivals and a One Night Stand special on HBO. The HBO series based on the daily struggles of the fictionalized band, their sad-sack manager, and their one and only crazy fan was an instant hit. Last year, Flight of the Conchords even won a Grammy for best comedy album for their release, The Distant Future.

When the Conchords announced their 2009 tour with a stop at the Fabulous Fox, the show was a quick sell-out. As fans, myself included, poured into the theater Thursday night, expectations were high. When you love a show so much and it has achieved such cult status, you wonder if the live performance can really live up to it. Fortunately, in the case of Flight of the Conchords, it absolutely did. In fact, it exceeded it.

You could feel the excitement and energy in the theater as an instantly recognizable voice (that of Jemaine Clement) announced the opener, comedian Eugene Mirman, who has a small, recurring role on the series as Bret and Jemaine’s landlord. Mirman’s comedy was dry and sarcastic and mostly funny – particularly a filmed video segment in which he explained to the women "How to nab a husband."

The real magic began when Mirman introduced the headliners, who emerged from the darkness onstage in robot heads for a rousing version of "Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor," a recent hit from the show’s second season, immediately warming up the crowd for the hilarity that would ensue.

After removing the robot suits, the pair took a more casual and comfortable seat at center stage, said a brief hello and went into "Hurt Feelings," a subtler yet no less hysterical tune about various everyday scenarios that cause feelings to be hurt.

The stage was simply set with just their stools, microphones and acoustic guitars, as well as a drum kit and a synthesizer. For a good portion of the show, the Conchords were joined by a third member, a cellist named Nigel whom they referred to as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

I’m not sure what was better, the string of their most absurd and popular songs or the subtle and witty banter in between them. "We’re professional talkers," Jemaine explained. "But if you don’t like the talking, just wait a couple minutes, and there will be another song."

After the epic tale of "Stana," the boys paid homage to St. Louis, talking about how lovely a town it was. "We don’t say that everywhere – I mean we would never pander to you like that," Jemaine assured the audience as he peeled off his denim jacket to reveal a freshly purchased Cardinals t-shirt and eliciting applause.

When hecklers (there’s some in every crowd isn’t there?) shouted from the balcony, asking where Murray and Mel were, Jemaine and Bret politely pointed out that they are fictional characters on the TV show. "That’s like seeing Harrison Ford and asking ‘Where Darth Vader is," Bret said.

In addition to off the cuff humor, fans were treated to performances of favorite Conchords tunes from both seasons of the series including the "Robot Song," "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room," "We’re Both in Love With a Sexy Lady," "Think About It," "Mutha’ Uckas," "Bowie" and "I Told You I Was Freekie" among others. As is always the case, the sound quality in the Fox was superb, making it easy to hear every hilarious word they uttered.

The highlight was probably second season classic "Sugarlumps," during which Bret humored a few girls in the front of the audience who were holding up signs by climbing down from the stage into their row, getting up on their seats and shaking his "sugarlumps" in their faces as Jemaine shook his stuff onstage. My stomach hurt from laughing by the time this scene was over.

After a brief interlude, the Conchords returned for an encore, with Bret now sporting a Vintage Vinyl t-shirt, in another tribute to the local flavor. Giving in to the shouts from the crowd, they performed fan favorite "Business Time," which could essentially be described as Jemaine’s tribute to a Barry White song -growling in his deep voice, "Its Wednesday, and Wednesday night is the night that we make love."  

They closed the show with silly French parody "Foux du Fafa," in which they sexily sing random remedial French words and phrases such as "Un baguette," "Soup du jour," and "Ou est le bibliotheque?"

As the Conchords left the stage, the crowd leapt to their feet. I think everyone left having their expectations more than met. It’s not just the tremendously funny lyrics of their songs, or the writing of the bits and the show – it’s all in the delivery. They are so naively and ridiculously charming (maybe it’s the accents?) that you want to take them home like a couple of puppy dogs, or at least I did.

In any case, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie are the real deal – a genuine comedy gem – and actually good musicians to boot. Sadly, last year they announced that season two would be the end for the HBO series. I am praying they change their minds. | Amy Burger

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