Freebird & Monkey Sex: A Night With Flight of the Conchords

Categories: Concert Review

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Luke Holwerda
Flight of the Conchords performing at Dodge Theatre in Phoenix. See more shots in our Flight of the Conchords slide show.

Though music and comedy may seem suitable bedfellows, the marriage of the two is often a mangled mess of bad puns and crappy guitar playing. One concept is, more often than not, more polished than the other -- the comedian sucks at playing guitar or the musician tells super lame jokes. It's a novel concept, indeed, but it usually pans out into one boring, awkward night.

Tuesday night's show at Dodge Theatre, however, was not one of these nights as New Zealand's "fourth most popular folk duo," Flight of the Conchords, captivated the more than eager crowd with their hilarious and unique music. Sure, it was like shooting fish in a barrel for the talented duo, but they pretty much nailed every fish in that damn barrel.

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Luke Holwerda
Flight of the Conchords performing at Dodge Theater in Phoenix. See more shots in our Flight of the Conchords slide show
It's safe to say that 95% of those attending the show has seen at least one episode of Flight of the Conchords, the HBO show featuring Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement as transplanted Kiwis trying to make a living in New York City, playing folk music while dealing with their one insanely devoted fan and clueless manager. Perhaps the other 5% has heard some of the songs from the duo's 2008 self-titled album. No matter what the case, the crowd was eating out of McKenzie and Clement's hands right from the opening chords of their first song, "Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor."

What is so undeniably charming about McKenzie and Clement is their hilarious banter in between songs and their impressive ability to improv pretty much anything -- and the eager Valley crowd threw plenty at them. Take for instance one female fan employing the fellas to "take it off!," thus prompting Clement to suggest some jackets be brought from their tour bus so that they could, in fact, take those off for the fans. In what I found to be the funniest part of the night, the two described how they were one of two bands to earn the distinction of playing with the New Zealand National Symphony. They then went on to elaborate that OMC -- of "How Bizarre" fame -- was the other band to earn the distinction, further displaying their sarcastic reverence for their fellow countrymen. Once the "symphony" was brought on stage, we were able to see it was one dude who played the cello, a subtle jab at New Zealand, but a funny one, no less (the rest of the symphony, scrapped due to budget cuts, was one fellow who played the trumpet and another guy who just danced in the corner).

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Luke Holwerda
Flight of the Conchords performing at Dodge Theater. See more shots in our Flight of the Conchords slide show.
In between songs, which were all performed rather effortlessly, McKenzie and Clement were able to riff on getting blowjobs, doing "band stuff" like readjusting the microphone (you know, stuff people who aren't in a band wouldn't understand) and explaining to one fan that Murray was not going to emerge from backstage, against his shouting wishes. Clement explained to the fan, "Our show isn't a documentary. Murray is not our real manager, he's not somewhere backstage." In their most sublime moment of the night, the duo told the crowd how much they care about the "issues," leading into a lengthly discussion of giving whales cell phones, so as to help them from any danger, like drowning ("why are their mammals in the ocean?"). Both of them simulated a 911 call between a whale and the operator, with McKenzie doing a spot-on whale imitation and Clement as the operator, responding with such quips like, "Your problem is very soothing" and "I just meditated to your call."

McKenzie and Clement are, as well as being very funny and able to handle most situations on their feet, talented musicians as well. This was evidenced by Clement's tangent after a fan shouted out, with a total lack of ingenuity, "Freebird!" We were treated to a pretty impressive 3 minute rendition of the Lynrd Skynrd epic lead by Clement with McKenzie chiming in for comedic effect. Hoping to perhaps top himself, Clement even treated fans to a short version of Prince's "When Doves Cry," and I must say I was floored at how well he handled both songs. Don't get me wrong, I loved their set and their comedic resiliance, but Clement's ability to playfully take songs like "Freebird" and "Doves" shows just how talented he and his fellow Kiwi-in-crime really are. Going into a Flight of the Conchords show, one has to know that they will be treated to something equally funny as it is musically polished. Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are two professional musicians who just so happen to be as funny and as quick-witted as most anyone you can find these days. They treated the crowd to a show they've most likely never seen, and one they won't soon forget.

Setlist:

"Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor"
"Hurt Feelings"
"Stana"
"The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)"
"Jenny"
"I Told You I Was Freekie"
"Foux Du Fafa"
"Carol Brown"
"Mutha'uckas"
"Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenocerous"
"I'm Not Crying"
"Freebird" (Not the whole song, but an impressive take on it)
"Think About It"
"When Doves Cry" (Explained by Clement as an "indulgence")
"Epileptic Dogs"
"I'm In Love With a Sexy Lady"
"Sugalumps"

Encore:

"Business Time"
"Bowie"

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night:
Flight of the Conchords at the Dodge Theatre.

Better Than: Popping in that Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny DVD you own.

Personal Bias: Yes, I have seen every episode of Flight of the Conchords and I may have dressed up like Jemaine for Halloween two years ago.

Random Detail: McKenzie and Clement couldn't quite decide what to call the crowd in attendence, either Phoenix or Scottsdale or Arizona. It was funny when they misheard a fan and called it "Scotchdale," though.

Further Listening: "I Told You I Was Freeky," from the espisode "Wingmen." The version from the episode is rather funky, yet the duo's stripped down live version still managed to delight and impress.

By the Way: A two hour comedy show is impressive, and McKenzie and Clement had no trouble filling the time. They played a good number of their songs and still left off some of their funkier songs from the first season of their show (like "Ladies of the World" and "Inner City Pressure").

One More Thing: It was very selfless for the duo to take not one, but two requests shouted at them from the crowd ("Carol Brown" and "Epileptic Dogs").


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