Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spinal Tap, Unwigged & Unplugged

So, the last time Spinal Tap was on tour, I was a little too young at the time to see them, being in Catholic grade school. Therefore any chance to see them, even if not in full "Tap" glory was a chance for me to cheer. I personally thought the show was awesome, despite what some reviewers have said. The show was full of energy and fun, and the lack of costumes really did not matter. Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Sir Christopher Guest wrapped up their "Spinal Tap, Unwigged & Unplugged Tour" at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee ("Gateway to Racine") Sunday night. The show got underway about ten minutes late, which was easily made up for by the fact they did a full 2 hours 20 minutes set encompassing all their different personas and a total of 27 songs, interspersed with videos and a question and answer section. Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest took a back seat to Michael McKean who visibly radiated happiness and enthusiasm. But I do like what one reviewer said of Christopher Guest, he's like the evil genius of the group, just sitting back and plotting. While not being a traditional "Tap" show, I don't think that if they were to cover all the songs they did a Tap show would have even been possible. If David, Derek and Nigel broke into songs by The Folksmen, it would have been odd to say the least. But by having them just be themselves they were able to become the characters, and their was no feeling that you weren't their watching Spinal Tap. It was beyond fascinating just watching how Christopher Guest visibly morphed before your eyes, his posture, diction, facial expressions took on each and every different personae, the most easily recognized being Nigel, sneers, accent and all.

Spinal Tap were witty and funny, some parts working really well, others falling a little flat, particularly Harry Shearer's own "All Backed Up" about Elvis dying from constipation. They had two audience participation numbers, as in an audience of one (and no, it did not involve the rubber glove Michael McKean hopefully brought out each time). They had one pair of 3-D glasses and asked the audience member to come forward and put them on. There was actually no 3-D to speak of, just them playing their guitars in her face during (Listen to the) Flower People. They also mentioned Clam Caravan was supposed to be Calm Caravan, but it was a typo, which they don't think Nigel even noticed. They also discussed censorship, recently on NPR and Leno, as well as the Bitch School video back in the day for MTV and then even the first airing of Spinal Tap on Saturday Night television, including the original, extremely hilarious memorandum including such advise as - "the cucumber scene must be removed" (as Harry Shearer then said, but it was a zucchini!) During the Q&A Guest did admit he is thinking of a Spinal Tap sequel, as well as doing a little of Corky's dance for the audience. Overall the Tap songs did well acoustically, you were not really able to tell that it wasn't electric, they were so adept at playing their instruments (except Guest wasn't very good at the Didgeridoo, but I expect he wasn't meant to be, whereas McKean was better at the keyboard then their keyboardist, who was more interested in "stunts" then quality work). I did not like the Jazzy version of Big Bottom or the Blue-Grassy, Rap, Jazz Fusion version of Sex Farm, but they were still enjoyable. The highlight for me was when McKean dueted with his wife, Annette O'Toole (aka Martha Kent) on the song they wrote together, "A Kiss at the End of a Rainbow". The song was so sweet and perfect and had a large quantity of to audience in tears, and I'm still mad Annie Lennox won the Oscar.

The audience seemed to enjoy it as well, which even the reviewer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentential begrudgingly states. I heard many people muttering afterward that they wouldn't have missed this for the world. Even Michael McKean said after the 2nd encore, before starting the 3rd (consisting of Heavy Duty, rarely performed on this tour judging by other reviews), that our enthusiasm was definitely making it onto the audience shots of the DVD they were filming (with the very large slightly distracting cameras). The audience also seemed to embody no particular similarity, with teens to retirees making up the audience, including some true weirdos (like the guy next to us who was clearly on something). I also have to say that the theater did a stupid thing by holding all floor seat tickets at the box office to avoid scalping and then not opening the box office till one hour before show time. Luckily due to error my tickets were sent and as it turns out, luckily the other people who were going with me got sick (their tickets were at will call, and they probably would have given up, which is my theory as to why, except for our 3 seats, the entire seventh row was empty, when I know they were sold.) All in all a wonderful concert experience with the kind of fun camaraderie that is seen at the end performance of A Mighty Wind. If I could change one thing about the entire show, I would have had an intermission, some of the audience was visibly tired and there was alot of rushing to the bathrooms and the bar by many audience members.

Set list (broken down by band, because I'm horrible at remembering set list order):

Spinal Tap:
The Colors of My Life to open and close
Hell Hole
Clam Caravan
Bitch School
The Majesty of Rock
Big Bottom
Sex Farm
Saucy Jack (Finally finished and debuted! The musical about Jack the Ripper. You can get it on their website for free)
Heavy Duty - encore

Spinal Tap (Early Tap Ephemera):
(Listen to the) Flower People
All the Way Home
Cups and Cakes
Rainy Day Sun
Gimme Some Money - encore

A Mighty Wind (The Folksmen):
Never Did No Wanderin'
Loco Man
Blood on the Coal
Corn Wine
Start Me Up
The Good Book Song with Annette O'Toole, Michael McKean's Wife
A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow with Annette O'Toole, Michael McKean's Wife
A Mighty Wind

Old Joe's Place - encore
Waiting for Guffman:

This Bulging River (Not included in the movie because it made Corky Cry)
A Penny for Your Thoughts with Judith Owens, Harry Shearer's wife

Harry Shearer's Elvis - All Backed Up

Videos shown:
Taps Original Appearance from 1979 - Rock and Roll Nightmare

Corky St. Clair Dancing
Back from the Dead Fan Video - really lame
Stonehenge and Trolls - This video was awesome and made Stonehenge funny in a new way!

Tonight We're Gonna Rock You with Lego's - The audience went wild for Lego Derek

Cheese Rolling - The Original Spinal Tap Trailer, with a young Jake Gyllenhaal

Miniature Build Your Own Stonehenge
Black "How Much More Black Could it Be" Nail polish
2 Harry Shearer CDs
1 Christopher Guest CD
Spinal Tap Tote-Bag
Big Bottom Underwear
Spinal Tap Sweatshirt
Various T-Shirts:
The Kingsmen
Eat At Joe's
Tour T
Isle of Lucy '67 Music Festival - The Shirt I got
Shark Sandwich

Nigel's Green Skeleton T


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