Gig Reviews

Flight Of The Conchords, The Opera House Concert Hall – 5/6/2012

What shouldn’t have come as any surprise was the appearance of Arj Barker as the opening act. After all, he features heavily on the television series as Dave, the pawn shop guy. Performing in his notoriously brash, exuberant style, Arj contrasted the shy and awkward duo of Brett and Jermaine perfectly, his confident personality oozing through with puns about his sexual prowess and the pains of having to ‘work’ at the Opera House. His mannerisms were great, adjusting the tone of his voice to great affect, often shouting crazily, head tilted back into the microphone for added effect. The laughs were plenty for the American native, who avoided one thing that New Zealanders tend to enjoy quite a lot: paying out Australians.

Brett and Jermaine of Flight of the Conchords emerged from the darkness in matching shiny silver foil jackets and dodgy home-made cardboard boxes on their heads, decipherable as a simple representation of their faces emerging from a bass speaker. Their awkward intro banter drew mass laughter from the audience as they jumped straight into Too Many Dicks (On The Dancefloor), a cheeky dance-oriented number that was a ridiculously hilarious opener made even more comedic by their appearance. Limiting their vision and mobility, the cardboard boxes proved a hilarious prop, as they struggled to maintain balance with the awkward object wobbling about on their heads as they played with the fact that they couldn’t hear each other speak or see anything. It was well after the first song that they even realised that there was seating side of stage, and that their view must have been terrible (made up for by playing I Met A Girl facing side of stage in the encore).

Robots saw their costume drastically transform with a 180-degree rotation of their cardboard box head pieces revealing a silver robot-style face to match their foil jackets. It was performed for the most part in monotone, with Arnold Schwarznegger and MS DOS impressions thrown in to hilarious results. At the song’s conclusion, their robot outfits (jacket and box) are removed and Matt, full-time sound guy/part-time hair stylist runs on stage to fix the duo’s hair. Brett objects to Matt’s styling on Jermaine’s hair stating, “why would you try a new hair style on our biggest tour, just stick to the classics”, in his awkwardly nonchalant manner. With their hair styles sorted, Brett and Jermaine set to the task of seducing the female contingent with Most Beautiful Girl via sexy lyrics like ‘Let’s get in a cab, I’ll buy you a kebab’ and ‘You’re so beautiful you could be a part time model, but you’d probably have to keep your normal job’.

In the TV series, the songs emerge from storylines that form the key subject matter. In the live setting, Brett and Jermaine give the songs meaning through the exploration of seemingly whimsical stories and discussions that eventually form the foundations for a song. The stories satirise the duo and their touring lifestyle that they refer to as “rock n roll”, the funniest of which, believe it or not, included receiving a complementary muffin and being stuck in a lift. These seemingly banal topics are made bone-achingly funny with Brett’s well-measured storytelling, and the proud and overly-excited manner with which Jermaine interjects. The way that Jermaine talks up ‘the band’ as “a couple of wild-dogs, a couple of wild dogs diabolising women” is so bleedingly ironic, but the way that he and Brett play out their characters is so believable that you can’t help but laugh at the thought that it is just their everyday personality.

The subtle way that Brett and Jermaine make jokes about being in a band is very well measured. Multiple pre-song requests from Brett to make the lighting “more medieval”, “more depressed”, or to make their sound “more rock ‘n’ roll” often turn into hilarious quips from Jermaine like “you can’t do smells with lighting Brett”. It makes the audience crack at how literal and blunt yet playful they are with each other. The chemistry between the two is captivating, for they are so equally tragic at being cool, and try so hard to impress us with knowledge, stories or musical prowess, but always fall short. The perfect example is Business Time, where Jermaine has the female contingent screaming in lust at his deeply rich and sexual baritone, until he completely changes the mood with ‘making love for two, making love for two minutes’.

Once you see past the humour, the musicality alone is something to admire. In their own respects, Brett and Jermaine are talented musicians, with exceptional multi-instrumental playing abilities. Jermaine’s most impressive(ly funny) are his triangle playing and clarinet solos in Inner City Pressure. In all seriousness though, the pair posses equally impressive voices, with which both have a huge range, plus Jermaine’s aforementioned baritone. The most captivating part is how they manage to transition so effortlessly from speaking and sounds into such well-sung harmonies and duets, as well as bust out the odd rap and sing accents and emotions perfectly. In its own right, many of the songs have catchy elements that draw you in and convey emotion. Plus, they tend to favour a funky playing style that makes you want to dance.

Showcasing a new song (one could only guess could be called Pec Sex is exciting) could mean that a new show/movie is in the works. However, it proved to be a weak moment as Brett had to stop multiple times mid-song, stating, “Damn, I’ve forgotten the lyrics”. His memory proved not to be so good as it happened a few times in different songs, although it was quickly forgotten each time as they re-gathered quite quickly. Another weak point was definitely the Bus Driver Song, which was sung in a seemingly Australian accent, although it’s meant to poke fun at New Zealanders. The song was a flowing ballad and didn’t draw much laughter from the crowd as its content was more serious than the others.

The way they play on irony is so clever. The most drastically ironic moment came from the most rock-driven song of the night, Demon Woman. Appearing in one-piece leotards, devil wings and electric guitars, the hip thrusts and power stances were unleashed with a fury. The hilarity that was drawn from such an unlikely rock status was heightened when after the song they trashed the stage by pouring some tea out of a cup, pushing a chair over gently and giving it the finger and laying a cymbal on the ground. After leaving to an unbroken applause, they came back for a three-song strong encore. The third encore song and show closer Sugar Lumps was where all the antics came out to play. Ditching their instruments, and backed solely by New Zealand’s ‘one man orchestra’, the duo burst out into spontaneous dance moves to flaunt their ‘humps and lumps’ to the audience. Jermaine jumped into the audience and rested his crotch on a female audience member singing “she put her shoulder on my gonads”. Whilst Brett hoaxed a lady in the second row into climbing the chair in front to get on stage, only to call security to grab her as she got half way up. One thing was for sure, the ladies completely lost their marbles over their sugar lumps. Brett and Jermaine told me to say that.

A huge ovation was justly given to a stunning two-hour performance that brought hysterics to many happy punters. It’s been a long wait for a tour. But their long history paying out Australians has paid off with sold-out shows around the country.

We now patiently await another TV series..

Full Setlist

Too Many Dicks (on the dancefloor)

Robots (The Humans Are Dead)

Most Beautiful Girl

New song – Title unknown (closest guess is Pec Sex)

Think About It (Issues)

Hurt Feelings

1353 (Woo A Lady)

Bus Driver Song – sung in Australia

Inner City Pressure

Epilectic Dogs

I’m Not Crying

Business Time


Demon Woman


Moving On

I Met A Girl (Over There)

Sugar Lumps

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