Blog : Posts tagged with 'live'

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In-Flight Entertainment

In which we have a jaunt off to Birmingham to see Flight of the Concords


Off to Birmingham yesterday, to see Flight of the Conchords at the National Indoor Arena, the great hulking ostrich egg sat in a nest of redeveloped Birmingham canalside next to a clutch of restaurant chains. Despite their radio series and their sitcom, I still think that FotC have the feel of a cult hit to them, one of those acts* who nobody apart from us has heard about. It’s slightly surprising, then, to find that they can head out on an arena tour which – in the UK, at least – seemed to sell out within a morning. I wonder if the other thousands of people in the audience all entered to the same thought: “what, there really are other people who have heard of them?”

There was one big clue as to the type of people who like Flight of the Conchords. The merchandise stall. We arrived at the gig almost as soon as the doors opened, and we queued up for the merchandise stall, at the sight of their rather attractive playing-card-style tea towels. “I know this is sad, but I really want a tea towel” said a woman behind us. But when we reached the desk: nope. No tea towels. All sold out. The people who go to Flight of the Conchords gigs – or, at least, arrive early at them – are the sort of people who like an attractive tea towel in their kitchen.

Disappointment of the night: Flight of the Conchords are touring supported by other comedians who have appeared on their TV series, such as Arj Barker and Kristin Schall. Our tickets told us to expect Schall; but the support who appeared was Eugene Mirman. It’s not that he’s a dull chap, it’s just that we’d already seen most of his material, recently, on TV. We’d have liked it more if we hadn’t heard almost all the jokes before.

You could say I’m being slightly hypocritical there, given that I know Flight of the Conchords’ songs from watching their TV series. Their TV series, though, is distinctly different from their show, and their TV characters are subtlely different to their stage personas. “Where’s Murray?” shouted a heckler at one point. “Murray couldn’t make it tonight,” replied one of the duo, “because … he’s a fictional character.” The songs, though, all worked very well on stage, even ones which previously seemed to be very specific to a TV episode plot.**

In some ways I’m not a great fan of big arena shows, partly because you can end up watching the performers on-screen, because the performers themselves are too hard to see. With Flight of the Conchords, though, there was a sense of warmth between audience and performers that really isn’t something you can experience watching a DVD. We were, apparently, a very polite audience. I wasn’t very surprised that the band thought so, to tell you the truth. After all, what sort of behaviour do you expect, from an audience that likes tea towels so much?

* Do you describe them as a band, or a comedy double-act? I’m not entirely sure.

** “Epileptic Dogs”, for example.

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Leeds Is A State Of Mind

In which we go and see The Mighty Boosh


A long day on Friday: a day out to Manchester, to see The Mighty Boosh Live. When the tickets for the tour went on sale, of course, we had to buy them straight away before they sold out; and back then, over a year ago, we had no idea that we’d have moved to an entirely different part of the country within a few months. So, back up to Manchester, to the MEN Arena.

If I’d been alert and awake ten years ago, I could have gone to see the Boosh at Edinburgh, in a cosy and intimate venue. Not cosy and intimate by Edinburgh Fringe standards, really, but cosy and intimate by anyone else’s. As I wasn’t, and didn’t, I end up not seeing them until they’re already famous enough to fill stadium-sized venues, alongside an over-excited audience who were still in primary school when the Boosh first put a show on. Lots of people in the audience had dressed up as characters from the show; my sole concession to dressing up was invisible and unseen.*

It was, despite our distance from the stage,** rather good. Very slickly done, considering the number of rapid costume changes. Backstage must, I’d imagine, have been frantic with people coming off and on. It did lead to Tony Harrison having a slight costume problem, at one point, with Noel slipping slightly out of character; which went to show how well they could extemporise when needed. For the rest of the show, improvisation wasn’t really needed other than to deal with people shouting “I love you Vince/Noel/Howard/Julian”.***

Structually, in some ways, comic theatre hasn’t changed much since, ooh, the comedy of Ancient Greece. People come along with a grand plan to make the world a better place; various characters are introduced to disrupt their plans, and the various disruptions get dispatched. Roughly, that’s that – I know I’m simplifying hugely, but it’s a long time since I last looked at any Ancient Greek comedy. My point is: the Boosh aren’t exactly groundbreaking in what they do, but they do it well. Certainly, they know how to entertain an audience, and how to make the scripted sound unscripted.

We poured out of the arena and into Victoria Station, slowly, with smiles on our faces. It was a long trip; but worth it. Never mind the limitations of the theatre; it’s definitely worth seeing the Mighty Boosh in their original habitat again.

* No, nothing dirty! The cosmetics chain Lush makes a range of hair products with Mighty Boosh-inspired names.

** at least we weren’t way up by the roof – we were only about 6ft or so above stage level, enough height to get a good view but not too much so we were looking down on it all.

*** To be honest, I can’t remember hearing that last one at any point, but the other three all cropped up regularly. Why people skipped the last I couldn’t say.

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Wall of sound

In which we go to a Death Cab gig


I wonder, sometimes, how much music reviewers know about the bands they review. Some, it’s obvious, are fans. Some are at least knowledgeable. But there must be some, surely, who turn up knowing nothing and leave knowing less.

We went to see Death Cab For Cutie play the other night. “Ah,” I thought, “I’ll write about them for the blog.” It’s the second time we’ve seen them this year, having seen them already a few months back at the Manchester Apollo. I even recognised some of their tunes. But, nevertheless, I still don’t feel qualified to have an opinion about them.

The stage felt slightly odd at Sunday’s gig. A big, wide stage, the band set themselves up at opposite corners of it, with a vast empty area in the middle through which their bass guitarist romped, jumping about wildly. We were pressed up against the front barrier, so I amused myself by watching the local photographers jumping about in pretty much the same way, grabbing photos before they had to leave. Nice cameras.* I wasn’t entirely sure one of them had chosen the right lens – it looked a bit slow for the job. But I was supposed to be listening to the music.

They’re not the best band if you want onstage banter. They launch straight from one song to the next without leaving any applause room, sometimes stopping briefly to change guitars. We learned: they think that British and American Pizza Hut branches are just as bad as each other.** We learned that the band learned: swimming in the harbour is not a good idea.*** And that, as far as banter went, was that.**** Their music, though, is good. They’re a tight band, even though they practically needed telescopes to see each other on stage. People don’t necessarily go for talk, do they? They go to listen to the music. Benjamin Gibbard danced about on the balls of his feet, a roadie in the wings paying out and reeling in his guitar lead as he went, to stop him tripping up on it; not knowing the music, I liked watching the little details like that. After the very full set – twenty-odd songs, including a 4-track encore, not just stuff from their current album – we went home filled up with feedback and our ears ringing.*****

*All Nikon. A D3, a D300, and a lower-end SLR, something like a D40 or D60.

** Or Pasta Hut, or whatever stupid name they’re calling it now. I’m not surprised they’re equally poor.

*** Possibly they saw the same thing as I saw the other day: the Big Issue seller whose pitch is on Pero’s Bridge, standing and pissing off the bridge into the water, about 10ft below.

**** unless you count the Barack Obama campaign sticker on one of Benjamin Gibbard’s guitars. If you don’t say much, even a single sticker can count as a statement.

***** although not painfully, like some bands I’ve mentioned in the past.

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