Flight of the Conchords: Echo Arena, Liverpool
After rescheduling their shows in the spring, the New Zealand musical comedy duo finally bring their reunion tour to Liverpool. Shaun Ponsonby finds out whether it was worth the wait.
Flight of the Conchords were supposed to play Liverpool on Easter Sunday, but Bret McKenzie broke his arm, leading to the whole tour being postponed.
Jermaine Clement joked through his deadpan drawl that this made them even more rock & roll than some of their heroes. “Guns N Roses come on an hour late and people think that’s pretty rock & roll, but we’re three months late”.
The duo are a strange phenomenon. More often than not, musical comedy falls a little flat on its face. Those who do it well – and there are very few who have pulled it off – recognise that the success lies as much in the persona in the songs themselves.
On the bad end of the scale, you have the irksome and witless The Midnight Beast. On the higher end, the brilliant and satirical This Is Spinal Tap.
Flight of the Conchords are probably somewhere in between the two, and much closer to Spinal Tap in terms of quality. It also helps that both men possess incredibly impressive talent as musicians.
This was apparent straight away, with the subtle opener Father and Son. In concept, it felt like a slight parody of the Cat Stevens song of the same name, and with different lyrics it could have been just as touching a composition. Indeed, it began that way before being subverted.
But in the opening verses, it really hit home why McKenzie in particular has had such success in film scores. Furthermore, both men’s voices complement each other perfectly. McKenzie’s sweet, higher pitched vocalisations of the son, against Clement’s deeper interpretation of the father.
Part of the problem of being a musical comedy act is that it is hard to surprise the audience by going out and performing fan favourites. Humour is, of course, based on the element of surprise. And while they do play a handful of fan favourites, notably Bowie and The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room (“You’re so beautiful, you could be a part time model – but you’ll probably have to keep your normal job”) – much of the set is based on new material, possibly out of necessity.
Yet a few more favourites might have been welcome, particularly If You’re Into It and Business Time. In fact several audience members shouted requests for the latter as the show was winding down. They certainly would have been more welcome than The Ballad of Stana, which took up the middle section of the show and seemed to go on forever.
Still, that is a fairly minor quibble, and for the most part the duo were received rapturously, the three month wait not dampening anybody’s spirits.
A few songs in, they introduce the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra to the stage. In an ongoing joke surrounding the idea of New Zealand’s insignificance, it is just one man; A cellist named Nigel who helped fill out the sound of Clement and McKenzie.
The undisputed highlight was a reworking of Albi The Racist Dragon, with lyrics that reflected the utter cock up that is Brexit and the disastrous negotiations that the entire crowd lapped up.
Almost a decade after the TV show ended, and eight years after their last tour, this reunion has been a long time coming, and it will be fascinating to see where they take it.