Unwigged & Unplugged, Spinal Tap still rules

A review of the "Unwigged & Unplugged" tour at the Wilbur Theatre on May 23, 2009

, Managing Editor

Let’s start off by answering the biggest curiosity of the Unwigged & Unplugged Tour: No, the band didn’t turn the volume up to 11 (They also didn’t get lost on the way to the stage or get stuck in a cocoon). This may sound disappointing, but believe me, the band didn’t need 11 or theatrics to be both impressive and entertaining.

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer are known for various comedic works, and Saturday night at the Wilbur Theatre the legendary trio brought plenty of laughs. The group is touring in honor of the 25th anniversary of This is Spinal Tap and the release of their new album which comes out next month.

While their sound was much more folk than rock, there was no question that the main attraction was the performance of Spinal Tap hits. "Hell Hole" opened the evening with some acoustic rock as McKean fired off some little guitar licks preceded by an amusing, wah-like solo mouthed by Guest before an acapella finish. "Clam Caravan" soon followed, said to be written during Nigel’s "blue period." Guest pleased fans with a comical attempt at the didgeridoo, which ended with him just shouting through it.

The stage was bare with the exception of a large video screen, which they would use throughout the night. A clip of Spinal Tap’s first TV appearance from way back in 1979 followed "Caravan". The clip showcased the band in all their glory, playing "Rock N’ Roll Nightmare" with outrageous solo faces. Pauses were taken on several other occasions in which fan music videos and old clips were showcased as well as a performance of NBC’s edits of This Is Spinal Tap which would allow the film to be shown on TV. Amongst the content edited out were linguistic treasures such as "shit sandwich" and "lick my lovepump". The mini-breaks only added to the hilarity of the evening and were appropriately placed and timed, keeping with the flow of the performance.

The first David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel collaboration, "All the Way Home" preceded A Mighty Wind hits such as "Blood on the Coal", a folk song hybrid combining the common folk themes of train wrecks and mining accidents, as well as "Cornwine". These tracks led up to the fan-favorite "Stonehenge", complete with a video of troll dolls dancing around a tiny Stonehenge structure.

After the groups ridiculously folky take on the Rolling Stones "Start Me Up" they paused for a brief Q&A where comedic banter was aplenty. A jazzy, bass driven "Big Bottom" soon followed accompanied by an interpretive dance by Laura Murphy. The group went in a vastly different thematic direction next with "The Good Book Song" accompanied by Annette O’Toole who stayed for "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow", which turned out to be a sincere, warm moment amongst a night of jokes and innuendos.

The band ended the night with an encore of "Old Joe’s Place" which had the crowd clapping along and received as big of a reaction as the Spinal Tap hits of "Sex Farm" and "Stonehenge". In their loudest moment, the band put electric effects on their acoustic instruments to cap off the night with "Heavy Duty".

Guest, McKean, and Shearer have spent decades performing as faux rock stars but after two hours of jokes and jams it was clear that there is nothing faux about their talent.

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