Flight of the Conchords at the Greek Theater, May 24
Comedy greats come in two's. Abbott and Costello. Rowan and Martin. Wayland and Madame. Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords are not only a twosome, but they're also the "fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo" from New Zealand (the first three are so big they need not be mentioned). The two went from a BBC radio series to their own show on HBO in 2007 playing hapless musicians struggling in New York and constantly being mistaken for Australians; apparently the neighboring countries aren't neighborly. Two seasons, a comedy album, Grammy and Emmy nomination later, and McKenzie and Clement are bona fide stars, even if they haven't taught us anything about their homeland.
Last year, they performed at the Orpheum, in addition to a few small, surprise shows. Now, the duo have hit the big time, playing the Greek in front of nearly 6,000 fans, which included lots of kids wandering around wearing underwear on their heads from the merchandise booths embroidered with one of FOC's song titles. (That didn't distract us from our big celebrity sighting, Rick Springfield, who, come to think of it, is from the enemy territory.)
Opening comics included one of the show's minor characters, Eugene Mirman, who went into a hilarious tirade about the evils of Delta Airlines and how religion "isn't a leap of faith, it's a high-functioning form of autism." Mirman then made way for Arj Barker, the boys' friend Dave on the show, who fancies himself a know-it-all ladies man, yet still lives with his parents.
Afterward, McKenzie (the shaggy-haired one) and Clement (the bespectacled one who makes Barry White sound like Barry Gibb) entered the stage, opening with "Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor," a club thumper about not enough vajajay to go around. And they wore what must've been homemade robot costumes with strategically placed disco balls. Sure, the rapport between the two might be described as bone-dry, if your definition of deadpan is the opposite of Dane Cook, that is. Their music, however, is anything but. With the aid of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which consisted of a lone cellist, McKenzie and Clement went from country ("The Ballad of Stana") to rap ("Mutha'uckas") to ballads about not crying ("I'm Not Crying") -- it's just dust in their eyes -- while playing guitars, synthesizer, omnichord and the world's smallest mandolin.
Clement's sexy, baby-making baritone is particularly entertaining, and tingling. If he wasn't serenading us on the sweetly-strummed "The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)," he was declaring "Business Time," bragging about how it only takes him two minutes because with him, you only need two minutes. He's even better at mimicking the Thin White Duke on "Bowie," a brilliant spot-on tribute, which goes through 30 years -- from Ziggy Stardust to Let's Dance --in about three minutes.
The duo have a serious side, too. At one point, McKenzie asked "the lighting to look genuinely depressing" on stage. "We'd like to look like we're trapped inside a tear drop," added Clement. And for reasons unknown, they invited two Spanish-singing guitarists to simultaneously join them in a bilingual version of "Think About It," FOC's idea of a protest song. This was either a nod to us Angelenos, or they're just really popular in South America.
Before culminating the evening, McKenzie and Clement jokingly marveled at the Greek's not-so-Greek authenticity. "Caesar!," an audience member yelled out, to which Clement shot back, "Caesar was a Roman." Then he added: "That's the power we have. We've just embarrassed your entire nation." Thanks for making us laugh -- and look deservedly stupid.