Flight of the Conchords - Live in London - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Flight of the Conchords - Live in London

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2019-03-08
Flight of the Conchords - Live in London
Flight of the Conchords - Live in London

When Flight of the Conchords, "New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo," burst onto the scene in the early 00s, they took the comedy world by storm. But after two seasons of a critically-acclaimed HBO series and two wildly successful albums (How often does a musical comedy album debut at number three on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart?), they decided to it was time for a break. Of course, the duo didn’t fall off the map completely; during the band’s hiatus, Bret McKenzie won an Oscar for his soundtrack contribution to The Muppets and portrayed Lindir in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit, while Jemaine Clement co-directed the horror comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows with Taika Waititi and became a fan favorite on FX’s Legion. And now, with the maturity of age, McKenzie and Clement have reunited for a live album (their first full-length release since 2009’s I Told You I Was Freaky), bringing their offbeat antics to London’s Eventim Apollo theater.

Between their lively back and forth and delightfully absurd crowd work, McKenzie and Clement truly come alive in their live sets, and Live in London works wonders to capture the energy of the room. The main selling point for a listener to sign on for a Flight of the Conchords concert album is for their trademark quirky banter, and they haven’t lost any of their zippy rapport during the band’s hiatus. "We've been trying to stay young," quips McKenzie at the beginning of the set, "We've been trying to preserve ourselves like those sexy man-boys that you saw 10 years ago on the TV." Between the songs, McKenzie and Clement work the audience with comedy skits recounting tales of the modest luxuries of their lifestyle of fame and excess (”Complimentary Muffin”), mildly traumatic experiences (”Stuck in a Lift”), and how they came to be back on the road (”Band Reunion”). There’s an unbridled joy present in the mock humility of their stage act that never sufficiently carried over into their studio recordings.

Not content to be a nostalgia show, Live in London is defined by its abundance of unreleased tracks, blending seamlessly into the band’s beloved hits. Many of the songs are single-ready, such as ”Father and Son,” a character-driven, Vaudevillian vignette that continues to build upon itself, and ”Iain and Deanna,” an instant Flight of the Conchords classic that finds a way to milk a seemingly simple comic setup for all it’s worth (reminiscent of the band’s early viral hit “Jenny”) and even makes time for a raucous guitar solo. A highlight of the night is ”Summer of 1353,” in which the duo invite “the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra” onstage for a medieval tale of courtship and chivalry, ending in a four-way recorder break. The rest of the new numbers range from a cowboy campfire tune slash spelling joke (“Stana”) to a pseudo-serious ballad in which Clement translates McKenzie’s empty metaphors (”Seagull”) to an ode to the monotony of touring, filled with callbacks to jokes throughout the show (”Back on the Road”).

Of course, the set featured plenty of reworked old standards. Some of the most well-regarded Flight of the Conchords earworms made their way into the performance, including the realistic pickup line “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room),” the space-age imagining of a future without humans “Robots,” and a stripped down mashup of “Mutha'uckas” and “Hurt Feelings.” McKenzie and Clement also dip into some of their more niche tracks, like nonsense beginner French lesson ”Foux du Fafa” and impression demonstration “Bowie.” They even dust off a fan favorite from their earliest days together, “Bus Driver,” in which a tour guide is perpetually distracted by the memory of the girl who got away.

Anyone expecting the same band they knew ten years ago will probably be disappointed with Live in London. Flight of the Conchords have matured, relaxing as they slip in and out of their deadpan onstage personas. The band has evolved considerably since their 2008 debut album, and this performance is a glowing testament to their willingness to explore new avenues within their already polished act. Live in London is precisely the flavor of reunion we needed from Flight of the Conchords, an earnest victory lap that nimbly captures both their infectiously playful spirit and their enthusiastic embrace of change.

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