Flight of the Conchords (photo: Jon Bauer)
It has been about seven years since New Zealand’s musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords released new material, and three years since the band’s last major tour. All the while, fans endured rumors and speculation that the pair were making a musical, a movie, a new album. It is no surprise that dedicated fans crowded the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on June 28, 2016, clamoring to hear new satirical songs and melodious parodies and anticipating an evening of laughs.
The folk parody band has come a long way from 2000, when the guys had just 12 songs and were forced to cancel several Canadian shows due to lack of audience. At one point, they played in a hidden Vancouver basement to a coerced audience of one woman who they lured with a free ticket. She snuck out mid-show. Clement and McKenzie’s path to more widespread popularity beyond the borders of New Zealand began when they moved to London in 2005 to write and record a BBC radio series.
Flight of the Conchords later starred in an HBO television series that ran for two seasons. They won several Primetime Emmy Awards in 2008 and 2009 in categories including Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. They also won a Grammy award for Best Comedy Album for their EP The Distant Future in 2008.
Nowadays, this novelty act is showcasing new material during a full tour called “Flight of the Conchords Sing Flight of the Conchords.” Stops include major U.S. cities from Cleveland to New York to Los Angeles and venues of amphitheaters, concert halls and stadiums that seat thousands. Today loyal fans, some admittedly obsessed, pay an average of $45 to $50 a ticket.
Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie did not disappoint, not even passing up the Silicon Valley setting as a chance to poke fun. “Can you debug this program?” Clement, in his palest pink suit, asked the audience. “I can see some of you are developing apps out there,” McKenzie said.
They opened with a new funky song called “Party” that breaks down their kind of rollicking bash. “It’s a brand new carpet. No shoes on the floor. Use coasters please,” they sang. “You like chickpeas. You like soft cheese…Chips and dip. This is how we party.”
Other new songs are quirky and zany, in typical Flight of the Conchords fashion. “Father and Son” begins as a tribute to a dad who we learn eats fish from a can and lives in the car. In “Seagull,” McKenzie narrates the adventures of a seafaring bird as Clement insists they are metaphors and explains their deeper meaning. “Please don’t get so excited by our by our newer songs because it hurts the feelings of our older songs,” Clement implored the crowd.
The band then continued on to play a string of classics — “Robots,” “Foux Du Fafa,” and “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room).” As the 90-minute show progressed, Clement and McKenzie stand out as musicians who display musical diversity in their catalogue. They sing a Western ditty with “The Ballad of Stana,” a smooth jazz number with “Shady Rachel,” a hip-hop favorite with Mutha’uckas,” and a few of their benchmark folk ballads. They sing female parts, they do dead-on impressions and have picked up a new instrument or two — the chimes are a highlight. But the duo simply shine as the funny comedians they are, with their dry wit, random observations, and droll delivery, even in their between-song banter. The entertainers have had a lengthy evolution from anonymity to cult following to mass appeal.
Photos by Jon Bauer