Flight of the Conchords

Listening while laughing til you cry

Conchords practicing de-evolution at Bass Concert Hall
Conchords practicing de-evolution at Bass Concert Hall (by John Anderson)

Hard to remember the last concert – or any concert, for that matter – where the audience laughed so hard they were wiping tears from theirs eyes. Yet last night's two-hour performance at a long-sold-out Bass Concert Hall by Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, otherwise known as Flight of the Conchords, was brimming with as much hilarity as music.

The New Zealand duo started in 1998, quickly gathering a small cult following that has grown exponentially. Their HBO series, in addition to an iTunes arrangement that allows fans to access music introduced on the series, has helped bring Flight of the Conchords to a wider U.S. audience.

For those who’ve followed the series, their concert Thursday night was essentially an evening of their songs, many of them performed on the series as music videos, interspersed with idle chatter or “lies,” as Clement said.

“If you laugh at them, then they’re jokes,” he maintained.

Hard to pinpoint why these two are so hilarious. Is it their accents, their deadpan delivery, the clever lyrics, their upending of rock star cool, the deconstruction of typical love songs, breakup songs, ooh baby baby songs? With these guys, nothing's sacred, except maybe, the music.

McKenzie and Clement are strong acoustic guitarists, with a couple of electrified instruments (piano, autoharp), a trap set, and other instrumentation thrown in as needed. They’ve been called folk musicians, but their tunes run the gamut, from tight, bossa nova-inspired tunes, to rap, to love songs stripped of their sentimentality. The music's good, but the real draw is their penchant for the absurd and slightly disturbed lyrics.

Songs like “The Ballad of 10-Year-Old Stana” (“Satan with the letters swapped around a bit”), about a young man who lives outside the law – defying the law of gravity, the laws of physics – to the more direct “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor,” “Albi, The Racist Dragon,” and side-splitting “Sugar Lumps” (“You probably think that my pants have the mumps... it’s just my sugar lumps... they look so good that’s why I keep ‘em in the front”) are just so, well, if it requires explanation, Flight of the Conchords isn't for you.

Comedian Eugene Merman, who's appeared occasionally with the Conchords on the HBO series, warmed up the throng ably. Merman was appreciated, but the audience was there to see the Conchords, bringing 'em back for two encores, featuring the boys in full glam rock regalia. Clement in skintight silver pants and an open shirt, and McKenzie in zebra print was worth waiting for.

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