Friday, May 22, 2009

Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight

Well, last night... and not me, but them.

I can't remember who said it, but during MTV's Unplugged era, it was stated that a true measure of the musical talent of a songwriter is if their work can stand without the amps, distortion, and other accoutrements of the modern rock era.

I believe that. Comedy, and especially satire, often shines a light on the ridiculous through hyperbole.

So what happens when you combine the two? In 1984, This is Spinal Tap came out to mock Rock n' Roll in all its forms. People focus on amps going to 11, and spontaneously combusting drummers, but the history of Spinal Tap had folk, prog rock, flower-child psychedelia, and of course, 70's and 80' metal. Over-the-top songs with thinly-veiled double-entendre, goofy lyrics, screeching vocals, and overbearing guitar solos with the goal of making your ears bleed.

And last night, with a few acoustic guitars, a bass, a keyboard, and a bare-bones stage setup, they had their hits covered by 3 guys named McKean, Guest, and Shearer. These guys also did some Folksmen tunes, along with a few other songs from Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind. Hell, they even did that ridiculous Start Me Up cover.

And they didn't leave much out:

The Colors of My Life
Hell Hole
Never Did No Wanderin'
Clam Caravan
Bitch School
Loco Man
This Bulging River
All the Way Home
Blood on the Coal
(Listen to the) Flower People
Corn Wine
The Majesty of Rock
All Backed Up
Start Me Up
Cups and Cakes
A Mighty Wind
Saucy Jack
Big Bottom
The Good Book Song
A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow
Rainy Day Sun
Sex Farm


Gimme Some Money
Old Joe's Place


The Colors of My Life (reprise)
Heavy Duty

Mixed in with those were some fan-made videos of Back From The Dead and Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight, old Tap footage, a little Corky St. Clair video, and a whole lot of joking, back-and-forth amongst the band, and even an audience Q&A. Naturally, some overzealous fans got smacked down as they yelled out unoriginal lines from the movie. The verbatim recitation of the censor notes when an attempt to air This is Spinal Tap on NBC in the 80's was a great moment.

So, how'd it stand up? The majority of the songs worked incredibly well when stripped down. There's no doubting that the three comedians are incredibly talented musicians as well. Shearer's All Backed Up kinda sucked though. Big Bottom went the opposite of the Live Earth concert - there, they had 12 bassists - here, only one bass, as McKean and Guest sang sans instruments in a finger-snapping jazz style.

Was it a fun show? Absolutely. Was it a rockin' balls-to-the-wall Spinal Tap experience? No... it wasn't meant to be. What it did was showcase the music of three comedians who have been singing and playing together for around 40 years. It's funny in it's own way that doing "spoofs" of musical styles gave them the freedom to travel between styles and turn out some actually solid pieces, each with their own wink to the audience. They have a few shows left in the northeast, I suggest seeing them if you can.

Because the next time they're together is a Spinal Tap world tour, for one night only at Wembley. As Nigel Tufnel said - At least they chose Earth as the world.


OhCaptain said...

Excellent review. Wish I was there now.

1Queens Up1 said...

They were at Foxwood's on Friday when I was there....almost went.

I did end up buying the Mighty Wind Sountrack.