So it was another treat to see the three don acoustic instruments last night at the Keller Auditorium in Portland and bust through Tap and Folksmen tunes without the trappings of being in character.
They were dressed semi-formal and comfortable (no wigs or stage outfits) and told funny stories between songs, razzed each other a bit and laughed a lot.
They did fall into character a few times, such as in Stonehenge - I mean, you can't do that song without reciting the opening spoken lines as Nigel Tufnel. But other songs like Big Bottom, re-done as a jazzy hipster scat, benefited from a re-tooling for the acoustic format.
A couple of things stood out. One, these guys can really play. When I had seen Tap before, I felt like Guest could really play well, and McKean was good, but Harry Shearer was being helped a lot by the keyboard player and frankly the drummer held the whole thing together. Last night was a different story. Shearer played fretted and standup bass and was very fluid. McKean did some songs on keyboards and was also very adept. Guest was great too but I expected that.
Also, their three parts harmonies were astounding. I know from playing my own gigs that the stripped down acoustic format lends itself to good singing, because you can hear really well. But, the audience can also hear really well and any mistakes are glaring. These guys were very tight vocally!
The second thing I noticed is that the songwriting is fantastic. Yes we know that the Spinal Tap and Folksmen songs are genius - Stonehenge, Hell Hole, Bitch School, Blood On The Coals, Old Joe's Place etc. But songs like Gimmie Some Money, Mighty Wind and All The Way Home are so close to the forms they are meant to parody that people not in on the joke would think these were real songs!
As expected, the three laid out funny between-song stage banter, but they also used a video screen at the back of the stage to break up the live show. Footage included a 'never before seen' clip of Tap playing on some late 70s TV rock show. Needless to say that the pre-MTV lighting, costumes and pseudo video storyline were all hilarious. Think Tap in their "Hemispheres era kimono-wearing Rush phase" and you'll get the idea.
They also showed two YouTube videos that they claimed were videos that fans had made of their songs. The second was a Lego Spinal Tap doing Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You (Tonight), which I found:
Also, they told a story about how when This Is Spinal Tap movie was to be released, NBC considered running it on broadcast TV but the censors had some issues with the script. Last night, the three proceeded to run through all of the censor comments one by one, reading from the actual report. Such as "One hour and three minutes - The lyrical content of Sex Farm is totally unacceptable" etc.
All in all, it was very entertaining and any fan of the Tap or Mighty Wind movies should seek this out. You won't be disappointed.
And for a good laugh, follow the blog from the tour here.