[See Timothy Norris' slideshow here.]
“Finally, comedy the way it's supposed to be–in an outdoor arena with disguised shrubs,” joked Eugene Mirman, one of the three comics who opened for Flight of the Conchords at the Hollywood Bowl last Sunday, the last stop on their current tour. That's the irony behind Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie: two New Zealand musicians who've achieved success on HBO playing two unsuccessful musicians.
If the kid dressed in the aluminum-covered box was any indication, the duo's first song was the futuristic “Robots.” The two were clad in plaid shirts and jeans, a far cry from the robot costumes they themselves wore last year when entering the stage at the Greek. The wardrobe change would come later, but the laughs were there from the start. Half the fun of watching these guys live is the between-song banter, which began with Clement and McKenzie talking about the excesses of touring. In FOTC's world, that would be avoiding complimentary hotel muffins and getting stuck in elevators.
All the ad-libbing they've perfected over the years is as important as the songs, which included metal folk, rap folk, disco folk, reggaeton folk and folk folk performed over acoustic guitars, a toy piano, keyboards and even a glockenspiel. “I prefer to call it a rock-enspiel,” corrected Clement. And when they combine the two, it's comedy gold. “Jenny,” for example, is a he-said, she-said case of mistaken identity that sounds like the folk version of “I Remember It Well” from Gigi. But this is serious music, the kind symphonies play. That would explain why Clement and McKenzie were accompanied by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which was really just a lone cellist named Nigel.
The duo clearly loves the opposite sex, especially on “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)” and the minstrel ballad “1353 (Woo a Lady),” one of three new tunes. But it's on “Business Time” that baritone Clement really plays up his Don Juan/Knotts schtick, bragging about his two-mute love-making skills. He's that intense. Barry White, meet your half-white, half-Maori love child.
The two displayed a somber side, too, trying not to cry on “I'm Not Crying.” It's just the onions. They also tackled a few issues-songs (“We're into whatever Bono's into,” said McKenzie), including the Pet Shop Boys-ian “Inner City Pressure,” 'Think About It” and “Song for Epileptic Dogs.” (“Use your riches to stop these bitches' twitches.”)
If there's an FOTC staple that makes the “nipple antennae” of every fan go pointy, it's the space-themed “Bowie,” the most hilarious David Bowie parody since 1986's Labyrinth. The night would only progress. During the glam rockin' “Demon Woman,” the two finally changed into matching metallic jumpsuits, with Clement wearing a suspended windswept scarf — which has to be rock's greatest neck accessory since the dog collar — followed by a four-song encore, including the Black Eyed Peas-inspired “Sugalumps.” It was then the duo jumped into the audience and grabbed cameras to point at their “cannonballs.”
Before leaving, Clement and McKenzie made sure to tear up the stage, knocking over instruments, albeit in a gingerly, non-damaging Flight of the Conchords way. They told us they were freaky.