Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest - Unwigged and Unplugged: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

The folks behind the most tuneful mockumentaries of our time shared the Warner Theatre stage on Wednesday.

Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest presented "Unwigged and Unplugged," a music/comedy tour that has the actors in street clothes presenting the songbooks of their semi-fictional bands Spinal Tap and the Folksmen. They also spent much of the night describing the process behind the movies that introduced these combos to the world, or just making fun of themselves.

From Spinal Tap's oeuvre, the trio delivered mostly acoustic versions of "Big Bottom," "Bitch School," "Sex Farm" and "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight." Before doing "Back from the Dead," a 1990 Tap tune that sounds an awful lot like '70s Uriah Heep, Shearer said Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, and Derek Smalls have recorded a CD by that name this summer.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

From the soundtrack of "The Mighty Wind," we had the Folksmen's "Corn Wine," and "Blood on the Coal."

Alas, the concert portions of the evening were hit-and-miss, mainly because the tunes are too good for their own good. Turns out Shearer is a very capable bass player, Guest can pick a mandolin like a veteran, and McKean led the trio in harmonies that could earn ribbons at a fiddlers convention. But nobody came to be wowed musically. And since everybody in the building had seen the movies and heard all the songs, they already knew all the punch lines, and jokes are never as funny as the first time you hear 'em - especially three-minute jokes. (Though dang if "Blood on the Coal," a tragedy-song parody about a train crashing in a coal mine after going "in the wrong hole," doesn't have a really long shelf life.)

The one actual cover was of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up," but the Folksmen's skiffle/bluegrass version had as little to do with the original as when Bob Dylan covers a Bob Dylan song. But that doesn't mean it was great comedy.

All the stage banter, and the scripted comedy bits delivered between songs, however, had the room guffawing. The trio read from what they said was an actual memo sent from an NBC censor named "Bill Clotworthy" in 1984, when the network was considering airing "This Is Spinal Tap" in the "Saturday Night Live" time slot. Among the edits Clotworthy demanded before allowing the broadcast: take out "the business between crotch and cucumber" and a rewrite of just about all the lyrics to "Sex Farm." That show didn't go on.
They also screened old Spinal Tap videos, mocking the NBC show "Midnight Special," that pre-dated "This Is Spinal Tap" by five years.

McKean, Guest and Shearer know that folks bought tickets more to be in the same room with them than to hear movie soundtracks. So, being nice guys, they opened the floor for a Q&A session with the audience.

The unscreened queries included a fan asking McKean, "Do you still talk to Squiggy"? He does.

--DAVE MCKENNA

By David Malitz |  May 15, 2009; 1:16 PM ET Live Last Night
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The show was great - very inventive and excellent reworkings of their songs - come on, they were fun, but

what is the meaning of this paragraph from above "...The one actual cover was of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up," but the Folksmen's skiffle/bluegrass version had as little to do with the original as when Bob Dylan covers a Bob Dylan song. But that doesn't mean it was great comedy."

this paragraph makes no sense at all -

Posted by: Duke69 | May 15, 2009 8:26 PM

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