There's no arguing whether I'll schedule my monthly trip to Largo; the question, though, is which weekend to target. When I don't have the excuse of showing a friend around town or some other conveniently timed event, I fall back on a rule of Largo: If there's anything weird on the schedule, just book yourself a ticket. You never know what will turn up.
First National International New Zealand Day, Largo at the Coronet, August 2, 2008: How big a nerd am I? When I saw this pop up on Largo's schedule, I Googled facts on New Zealand to see if this gig was connected to a national holiday or celebration. Only once that was settled could I fully appreciate the show for what it was: a brilliant grouping of talent, even outdoing the Australia (but actually Scotland by way of Australia)/New Zealand bill I saw a couple of summers ago.
If you've been following Largo's recent bookings, you could make a reasonable guess at some of the names who'd show up tonight. That prospect was good enough for me to plonk down the bucks, but in truth, I harbored another hope, albeit one in vain, as it turned out.
So nope, no Neil Finn or Liam Finn, for that matter, though at least Finn the Younger had an iron-clad alibi (something about a tour with Eddie Vedder). That was hardly a showstopper, however, as a boatload of Kiwis filled out the roster nicely.
Was there any doubt who the headliners would be? Only if you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years. Although it was no shock to once again enjoy a night out with the Flight of the Conchords at Largo, we were a bit taken aback by the rock star reception they elicited. Then again, I suppose the line and the people inquiring about extra tickets outside the theater should've been a giveaway.
To their credit, Bret and Jemaine were just as hilarious as I recall, and they didn't show any signs that their incredible U.S. success has changed them. Instead, they served as the evening's master of ceremonies, introducing each guest, as well as dispensing the songs and banter that have won them such an enthusiastic following. They opened with "Robots" and closed with "Leggy Blonde," and threw in a couple of other songs we've heard before, but as far as I remember, every other song was new and, presumably, a sneak preview of the second season of their HBO series.
About those new tunes: I recall hearing one ("Ex-Girlfriend Choir"?) of them at Jon Brion's closing show at the old Largo, though this time Bret had help on the chorus, in the form of Bic Runga. Another insanely great tune was Bret's appeal to Jemaine to not sell his body. Also, at one point, Bret made use of a child-size Flying V guitar, while Jemaine never wandered far from his omnichord.
Joining the Conchords were Rhys Darby, a.k.a. Murray from the series, who performed his stand-up routine, as well as slipped into character for a couple of bits. Also onstage were the Runga sisters, Boh and Bic. I wasn't aware of Boh until earlier this year, but Bic's name has been associated with Neil Finn for a while, though I never had the chance to see them on tour together.
Their styles were quite different from one another, Boh occupying the more rock range, while Bic showed off a folksier side. As mentioned above, Bic and the Conchords collaborated for a few numbers, including one of her compositions, and they revealed that Bic and Jemaine are distant cousins. Though all the evening's performers exuded warmth and ease with one another, nowhere was that camaraderie more evident than it was with Bic, Bret, and Jemaine.
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