sat 15/12/2018

Flight of the Conchords review, Eventim Apollo - New Zealand musical spoofers make welcome return | reviews, news & interviews

Flight of the Conchords review, Eventim Apollo - New Zealand musical spoofers make welcome return

Flight of the Conchords review, Eventim Apollo - New Zealand musical spoofers make welcome return

Worth the wait for Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement

Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, playing their first UK dates in eight years

When Flight of the Conchords first played at the Edinburgh Fringe they were a sleeper hit, championed by other comics and loved by critics. In 2003 they were nominated for best show in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, a Radio Two series followed, then two series of an HBO mockumentary in which they played fictionalised versions of themselves as innocents abroad trying to make it in New York, with fellow Kiwi Rhys Darby as their manager (pictured below).

Now Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie have returned to do live dates in the UK for the first time since 2010, and this show – a collection of old and new musical parodies – is worth the wait. Actually, the wait was even longer than planned, as these latest dates replace those the musical spoofers had to cancel earlier this year when McKenzie fell down the stairs and broke some bones in his hand, which Clement guys him for mercilessly at one point in the show.

Flight of the ConchordsClement apologises for the fact they have grown “older and dustier”, but McKenzie points out that we, the audience, have also put on some years since they last toured, so we're even. When the UK first fell in love with them, the artifice was about being smiley, guileless Kiwis, modest about their talents and just hoping to get somewhere in the world of music.

Now they are proper stars – playing to arenas on this tour – and the subject matter has shifted, but only slightly. So where once they tried to act if they were party animals, now they may pretend to be wild at heart, but they sing about what food they serve at social gatherings (“Chips and Dips”, obviously).

There are several old favourites: “Father and Son”, in which Clement tugs at our heartstrings as a widowed dad, but then McKenzie chips in with, “You know very well mama didn’t die, she just hooked up with another guy”; and “Inner City Pressure", a song that sounds so like the Pet Shop Boys' “West End Girls” that from a distance you couldn't tell them apart.

There's a perfect parody, too, of David Bowie (Clement sounds uncannily like him) in “Bowie/Bowie in Space”, which they dedicate to their hero, and my favourite of the evening, a new song, the Lily Allen-esque “Deana and Ian”, which tells a tale of sexual misconduct in the workplace (rhyming “spreadsheet” with “bedsheet”).

Musical ability is one thing; it's alloying that with playful use of language and unexpected rhymes that gives so much pleasure

Clement and McKenzie are very talented musicians – on keyboards, guitars, flute and percussion – and their musicality shines through; on their version of an English madrigal, “The Summer of 1353”, they even manage to rock out on recorders. Musical ability is one thing; it's alloying that with playful use of language and unexpected rhymes that gives so much pleasure.

Between songs, the two banter and tell stories about life on the road, where eating a free muffin in a hotel room is about as rock'n'roll as it gets. It's as dry as a bone and the stories are toe-curlingly mundane and detailed, but they keep up the pretence admirably, only occasionally allowing a knowing smile to creep in.

This shtick could become tedious if not done well, but McKenzie and Clement inject jeopardy into proceedings to keep things interesting. Is Clement really talking over McKenzie, or is McKenzie going off-script to keep things fresh with his bandmate? We don't know, because the two are great actors and so expertly deconstruct “being in a band” that the whole act becomes quite meta – and is very funny

There are in-jokes for long-time fans, and enough clever wordplay and callbacks to please those new to this superbly accomplished comedy set-up. It has been too long a break, so let's hope they come back again soon – as long as McKenzie avoids the stairs.

McKenzie and Clement inject jeopardy into proceedings to keep things interesting

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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