Unwigged and Unplugged

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, aka Spinal Tap, aka The Folksmen rolled into Oakland's Paramount Theater last night on their "Unwigged and Unplugged" tour. Performing songs from the movies This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind as well as other material such as the Elvis-influenced "All Backed Up" and a cover of the Stones' "Start Me Up," the trio managed to deftly walk the line between a giving true musical performance and staging a parody. Actually, they made it look pretty easy.

One of the things that has always amazed me about these guys (and the other actors in Guest's movies) is how their comedic brilliance seems so effortless and natural. The same is true about the music in those films. Parody is tough to do, more so to do it in songs that are actually catchy and memorable in their own right.

The bond between the audience and performers was evident from the moment the three walked onstage. The concert had an almost "old home week" feel about it. Shearer did most of the talking between songs and Guest actually said very little onstage. Interestingly, Guest was the only one who had a roadie assisting him for instrument changes. McKean did what he does best, playing the not-quite straight man in the middle of everything.

Shearer has such a gift for not letting the down the mask that for me it's always been difficult to see the the line between his real and performing persona. I mean that in a complimentary way. He's marvelously fun and he had the crowd laughing all night long.

There was hip-hop version of "Sex Farm" complete with human beatbox via Guest that was pretty awesome, though for me "Start Me Up" was probably the musical highpoint of the evening. I have to admit I was disappointed to not hear "Stools.". Regardless, I was impressed by the quality of musicianship and vocals throughout the entire performance.

There was a too-brief Q & A toward the end, though I don't remember what any of the questions were (this was a Tap gig, after all, even it wasn't turned up to 11).

Shearer is writing a blog about the tour and his entry about Paul McCartney stopping by their rehearsal is a pretty cool read.