Unwigged and Unloved: Spinal Tappers Play for Small but Appreciative Crowd
Before the Unwigged & Unplugged show even started last night, the official Spinal Tap
moment had already happened. When the announcer came onstage at Dodge Theatre to do the customary plugging of upcoming shows, he looked over the half-full house and noted that the guys backstage had asked him if they'd advertised this show. It's too bad that more people didn't get to see Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer do their thing, but I'm not going to complain too much, since the low turnout allowed us to move about 15 rows closer to the stage and still have plenty of room to stretch out.
For the uninitiated, Guest, McKean and Shearer are the creative geniuses behind such classic mockumentaries as This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman, and Best in Show. The trio is on the road to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Spinal Tap by playing acoustic versions of songs from their various films. The threesome slipped in and out of character as needed throughout the night as they ran through a nearly two-hour set of their subversive hits.
Shearer came out of the gate swinging, telling the crowd that the Suns should've never gotten rid of former head coach Mike D'Antoni, drawing a round of applause. "I hope Steve Kerr isn't here," Shearer said before the trio opened with the Spinal Tap classic "Hell Hole."
Shearer, McKean and Guest were obviously comfortable performing together after more than a quarter-century. Their stage banter was funny without seeming scripted (no surprise, considering the bulk of their movies are improvised). The acoustic setting allowed their clever lyrics to take center stage without being overshadowed by the sight gags from the films they were written for. It also gave the trio an opportunity to put a new spin on some old favorites. "Big Bottom" morphed into a beatnik/do-wop number, while "Sex Farm" got a funky makeover complete with acoustic wah guitar and rapping by McKean. They also threw in a few unexpected surprises, including Shearer's tribute to Elvis Presley's toilet-bound demise, "All Backed Up," and a bluegrass version of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up."
McKean's wife, Annette O'Toole, joined the guys onstage for a pair of songs from A Mighty Wind: the hilariously cheesy "Good Book" and the Oscar-nominated "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow." The guys also played video clips in between a few songs, including a "Cheesefest" clip from the original Spinal Tap movie trailer featuring a very young Jake Gyllenhaal and a fan-produced, animated Lego video for Tap's "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight."
Overall, it was an excellent show by a group of funny and talented guys who clearly have a great time playing together. Hopefully the next time they come through town, these guys will get the capacity crowd they deserve.
Never Did No Wanderin'
This Bulging River
All the Way Home
Blood on the Coal
The Majesty of Rock
All Backed Up
Start Me Up
Cups and Cakes
Old Joe's Place
The Good Book
A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow
Rainy Day Sun
Gimme Some Money
A Mighty Wind
Last Night: Unwigged & Unplugged at Dodge Theatre
Better Than: Tap wannabes Flight of the Conchords
Personal Bias: I own every Chris Guest mockumentary on DVD except For Your Consideration.
Random Detail: I've never seen an acoustic guitar played through a wah pedal before last night.
Further Listening: Not really listening, per se, but if you haven't seen the fellas' non-musical dog show send-up Best in Show, add it to your Netflix queue pronto.
By The Way: Guest's didgeridoo solo during "Clam Caravan" was one of the night's highlights.
One More Thing: I don't care how funny and/or famous you are. Nobody has any business charging $35 for a T-shirt.