Concert date: 05/16/2008
Run date: 05/19/2008
How does one measure a band’s popularity? If you were to use record sales (52,000 copies in the first week) or Nielsen ratings (1 million viewers an episode), then the New Zealand-based folk parody band Flight of the Conchords would probably never show up on radar of the hottest entertainment acts. And yet, something strange happened in Columbus, Ohio on Friday night: the 19,200-seat arena the duo was playing at was completely packed. Who knew the Conchords had such a large following?
To be fair, a venue like Value City Arena isn’t exactly the best place for a band of their nature to be playing. Sandwiched between concerts for Van Halen and Poison, it became increasingly obvious throughout the course of the show that the Conchords are at their best in a more intimate setting. Still, that hardly got in the way of them putting on a hilarious, two-hour concert filled with only a few lows (like opening comedian Heather Lawless) and plenty of highs (can anyone say “keytar”?).
Offering a healthy mix of popular tunes, fan favorites, and plenty of between-song banter, the Conchords kicked off the show with “Boom” before finally settling down to introduce the band. When some of the female superfans crooned at Bret McKenzie’s introduction of Jemaine Clement, he went on to say that “Jemaine’s one of the two more popular members in the band.” The band-audience interaction continued for much of the show, and despite several annoying groupies, the Conchords handled the situation rather well. You could tell that they were finally getting a little annoyed, however, when they decided to stop talking and just cram as many songs as possible into their always-changing set list, which they handpicked from a sheet onstage.
While some of their song choices (like “Jenny”) weren’t familiar to those that have only seen their eponymous HBO series, the Conchords did a good job of mixing things up. A brief discussion about how they’re passionate about addressing the issues (“Anything Bono’s into, we’re into.”) prefaced the always-popular “Think About It,” while Jemaine followed that up with an extended rendition of “Albi the Racist Dragon” – albeit after much begging from a group of female fans whom Bret likened to a seven-headed lizard. Other favorites like “Hiphopapotamus vs. Rhymenocerous” and “Business Time” were also eventually played, and when the house lights were dimmed for the oft ignored “I’m Not Crying,” Jemaine improvised a few lines of “Free Bird.”
It’s exactly this kind of on-the-go improvisation that make the Conchords such an entertaining act to see live. No song is ever performed the same (whether it’s changing lines, swapping parts, or just extending it by several minutes), and the duo is so quick-witted that they can take a single comment and turn it into a hilarious exchange worthy of their TV series. After a five-song encore (which included “Foux Da Fafa,” “Bret, You’ve Got It Going On” and “There Are Angels”), the Conchords finally called it a night, but what a night it was. Along with bringing down the house with a surprisingly energetic performance of their new song “Get Freaky” (where Bret jumped into the audience and played a keytar solo while running through the aisles), the New Zealand duo confirmed why they’re so damned popular. Along with being very talented musicians, they also happen to be some of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet. Viva La Geek Revolución!