“We haven’t been to Cleveland before,” Bret McKenzie told the sold-out crowd at the State Theatre. “At least that’s what our management told us and we believe them,” Jemaine Clement quickly added. The duo kicked off their “Flight of the Conchords Sing Flight of the Conchords Tour” show immediately following an animated opening set by the comedian Arj Barker (who played Dave on band’s self-titled HBO series) with a song about party chips and dip. It was the first of seven new tunes the band played throughout the course of its witty and highly entertaining 13-song concert (14 if you separate the mashup of “Hurt Feelings” and “Mutha’uckas”), asking the audience not to record them with their phones since there was a good chance they’d forget lyrics at one point or another and that’s not how they wanted fans to remember the night. You can see a few photos from the concert here
Bret and Jemaine didn’t just add 50% new material to the show, they also brought along the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (consisting only of expressionless, wild-haired cellist Nigel Collins) as well as a few new instruments: a Vibraslap which they noted was “traditionally not very popular on songs” and a set of hanging chimes that Jemaine occasionally would play using the headstock of his guitar for dramatic emphasis. There was also a rather unexpected and intricate polyphonic performance of recorders at the end of their lady-wooing Medieval-inspired tune “The Summer of 1353.”
As always, the song repertoire represented a range of influences from the jazzy “Shady Rachel” to the western-styled “The Ballad of Stana.” Fan favorites like “The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room)” and “Bowie’s in Space” elicited big cheers. But it was group’s repeated explanations of lyrics (with Jemaine telling the audience “You’re hard, cold and emotionally unavailable—you are the rock in this song” about Bret’s emotional rendition of “The Seagull”) as well as the droll, between-song banter with the crowd that really made the show. “We’re compiling our rock ‘n’ roll stories . . . we really get into some crazy shit,” Bret told the crowd in the hometown of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “Like earlier backstage when I was out cold and you didn’t know if you should wake me up because I might be grumpy,” affirmed Jemaine.
The evening ended after the Conchords' “pretend last song” with a two-tune encore consisting of “Business Time” and “Think About it,” during which the riffing New Zealanders casually cautioned, “Don’t vote for Trump . . . he’s not very funky.”