It’s a bit hard to believe, but in their 18 years of existence, the New Zealand comedy-fold duo Flight of the Conchords had never played New Orleans. The pair, consisting of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, gained popularity through their HBO series. Although it only lasted two seasons, the roots planted there would become the basis for an amazing cult following. The band has released two albums and an EP as well as a live album. The bulk of their performance at the Saenger Theatre this week was from their self-titled album. They also performed several new tracks that were every bit as funny as their older material.
There were several things I took away from the show. The first was that the band comes off even funnier than the show. They can and very often do break the wall between themselves and the audience by directly engaging them. They took every opportunity they could to interact with the audience, whether it be pointing out someone leaving their seat for whatever reason, or during the photo opportunity making light of someone coming down to the stage to take a selfie. Or, even funnier, ribbing the second person doing the same thing by asking to give her some more light.
The band did a great job of weaving several ongoing jokes throughout their set. The idea of writing a novel was one of them. The chapters were randomly announced throughout the night as things would happen on stage. The band introduced the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (aka cellist Nigel Collins). Much as the duo had proclaimed themselves early on as being solo bands, they also said the same of the orchestra.The dead pan humor went beyond the songs they played and sat firmly in their stage banter. The band joked that they had upgraded their set with a percussion section that included two instruments.
Flight of the Conchords' new material mixed well with the older material. Had the band not noted the tracks, one wouldn’t really have known that the new material was in fact new. Of the new tracks, “Chips and Dips (Rock the Party Snippet)”, “The Ballad of Stana” (which was a 10-minute setup for one joke), and “1353 (Woo a Lady)” (which ended in an epic rock and roll flute jam), all have the makings of instant classics. It’s great to see a band’s inner dialogue translated live, and the Conchords do that perfectly. Also of note, Arj Barker, who played Dave Mohumbhai on their HBO series, opened the night. His quick 20-minute set was part song and part dialogue and served as the perfect opener.