By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
NEIL INNES at Sixteen-Fifty, March 20
"Ladies and gentlemen, I've suffered for my music — now it's your turn," prodigal troubadour Neil Innes declared at the outset, tuning wildly with feigned confusion, then launching into the sweet-and-sour harmonica squeaks and earnestly vague lyrics of his solo acoustic Dylan parody, "Protest Song." Later, he donned a bright-yellow duck hat for the spare piano ballad "How Sweet To Be an Idiot," but before you could dismiss it as a mere sight gag, he crooned, "Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an asylum," with an unsettling, haunted urgency. There's a bit of the tears-of-a-clown syndrome at play here; even the Beatles and French-song parodies were limned with gorgeous, original melodies, hinting at and reveling in deeper emotions.
Although it was a thrill to hear the man perform Bonzo Dog Band classics like "Urban Spaceman" and the full-tilt boogie of "Trouser Press," the real revelations lay in a generous selection of lost solo material. "Libido" chugged along pleasantly with a faux South Americana vibe; the shock was in the casually frank lyrics. "Freedom is . . . the image of illusion in the goldfish of your bowl/The shampoo of perfection in the bathroom of your dreams," Innes chanted during "Slaves of Freedom," with certain lyrics taking on special meaning at the outset of Bush's private war: "We can't all be Wyatt Earp."
Backed by a versatile group that included sparkling guitarist Rutling Ken Thornton, Bonzos bassist Joel Druckman, and longtime pianist and strings-and-horns arranger John Altman, Innes was in stronger form than when he last appeared locally in 1997 and 1994 with various pickup-band versions of the Rutles. During his second set, Innes (a.k.a. Ron Nasty) whipped up a medley of Rutles favorites, including rarities from Archaeologylike "Lonely-Phobia" and an impromptu version of "Hey Mister!" It was all a joke, yes, but with tunes that were often more memorable than their influences. (Falling James)