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LIVE: Arj Barker/Flight of the Conchords

Flight of the Conchords: Australian Tour

Review by DAN DIXON
Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Saturday July 7

Lights up and slowly filling, the Brisbane Entertainment Centre feels particularly cavernous tonight. I’m not alone in wondering whether Flight Of The Conchords are suited to one of Brisbane’s largest venues, but it turns out that I needn’t have worried

Arj Barker, who featured as the band’s buddy Dave on the HBO series, opens with a 40 minute stand-up set. The audience welcomes the comedian with wild enthusiasm — a sign of things to come. Barker is the perfect fit, building steady laughter and getting people cheerily warmed up for the main event.

Barker concludes with a cheeky introduction of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. The applause rolls as the dead-pan duo march onto stage in absurdly low-budget costumes — cardboard box helmets and aluminium jumpsuits. They launch into Too Many Dicks (On The Dance Floor) before segueing into Robots. The spectacle is brought to life by a costume change facilitated by a 180 degree rotation of the helmets. Clearly no expense was spared.

For much of the crowd, Jemaine and Bret are diminutive figures, perched on stools and cradling guitars, faces obscured by distance. To compensate for the lack of intimacy, large screens are hung above the stage, displaying Jemaine on the left and Bret on the right. This ensures that no overwrought expression or self-conscious shrug is missed. The audience’s zealous appreciation seems to shrink the venue.

Flight of the Conchords

Their brand of comedy is nestled in Kiwi self-effacement. They play to thousands of dedicated fans who laugh powerfully at every throwaway gag and react to lyrical punch lines — heard for the hundredth time — as if hearing them for the first. The Conchords conquer this conundrum by being unflinchingly professional — in the precise portrayal of their unprofessional alter egos. Crowd-pleasers like Business Time and Bowie are played with suitably manic passion. Between-song banter, referencing their rock-and-roll lifestyle (a muffin basket delivery; getting stuck in a lift), is hilarious. The pair also respond to the odd audience heckle with just enough acerbic wit to maintain the upper hand. The Entertainment Centre swells with wonderfully awkward humility.

New songs, The Summer of 1353 and Let’s Fuck On The Ceiling, are highlights. The TV series wrapped back in 2009 so unheard material is welcome. As a bonus, it’s brilliant, practised and as funny as anything they’ve done, reminding us why we fell in love with the band in the first place.

These days, the show isn’t over until the house lights go up. In due course the Conchords burst into the audience on yellow CityCycle bicycles for an obligatory encore: “We hired some of your city’s bikes but weren’t really getting enough use out of them,” Bret explains. They finish with a slowed-down version of Sugalumps, during which they descend from the stage to romance the front row. But the truth is there’s no need for courting. Bret and Jemaine, the unassuming folk comedy duo from New Zealand, already have Brisbane enamoured.

DAN DIXON wrote reviews for Rave Magazine until it went away. He studied journalism and is now a postgrad literature student at UQ but wouldn’t be able to tell you why.

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About Zenobia Frost

Zenobia Frost is a Brisbane writer. Her work has been published in Voiceworks, Overland, The Lifted Brow and The Guardian. Her debut poetry collection, Salt and Bone, is out through Walleah Press. @zenfrost

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