In this world of reality TV and the self-absorbed, it was a wonderful respite to journey into the unreality and self-absorption of the Spinal Tap world on May 30 at the historic Chicago Theatre before the fictitious group headed to Milwaukee for the final stop.
The tour, which began April 14 in Vancouver and wound its way across America through 19 states and two Canadian provinces, actually had minimal publicity; but what was publicized was strategically targeted to reach the band's followers on the Internet.
Spinal Tap, the alter egos of Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer, walked on stage to a sell-out crowd, giving a hand-clapping, feet stomping, mouth, uh, shouting performance with the help of their alter-alter egos, The Folksmen. Dave Itzkoff on nytimes.com writes that in 2001 at a Spinal Tap performance at the Beacon Theater "some fans vocally objected to an unannounced appearance by the Folksmen," apparently not getting the joke.
Chicago fans get the joke. Despite the trio getting a little long-in-the-tooth (McKean and Guest are 61 and Shearer is 65), the lobby was jammed with fans lined up to buy t-shirts imprinted with a torso (like the one Nigel Tufnels wears in the film), Unwigged and Unplugged tour shirts, and one with the Folksmen on the front and the sign "Ea_ A_ _oe's from their "hit" on the back. Also on sale was a do-it-yourself Stonehenge kit, paying homage to the hilarious 18" tall stage prop bit.
The crowd went wild as these three remarkably talented musicians moved through their roles in "This is Spinal Tap," and "A Mighty Wind." When the first strains of "Penny For Your Thoughts" began and Guest took on the persona of Corky St. Clair from the group's 1996 venture, "Waiting for Guffman," it was clear McKean, Guest, and Shearer were playing to a crowd of worshippers.
The set, which lasted for more than two uninterrupted hours, included favorites such as "Clam Caravan," "Hell Hole," "Cups and Cakes," "A Mighty Wind," "Sex Farm," and "Stonehenge." A slower arrangement of "Big Bottom" knocked the house on its ass. The Folksmen got everybody toe-tapping with "Corn Wine," "Blood on the Coal" and "Never Did No Wanderin'," among others and didn't disappoint with a rendition of "Start Me Up," which is described on Wikipedia as an acoustic song that describes how people can relate to cars. You know.
A sweet touch was McKean and his wife, actress Annette O'Toole, singing their Academy-award nominated song "A Kiss At The End of the Rainbow," Mitch and Mickey's signature song from "A Mighty Wind." Shearer's wife, singer/songwriter Judith Owen, also performed and Guest's wife, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, appeared in the Stonehenge video holding the troll dolls.
Yes, I'm a Spinal Tap fan and think "A Mighty Wind" is one of the funniest movies ever made. I will be one of the first in line to get Spinal Tap's new release "Back From The Dead" due out on June 16.
When I did a search on HuffPo for "spinal tap unwigged," it asked me "did you mean spinal tap unwiped?" I had found the title for this piece. Yes. Spinal Tap Unwigged, Unplugged and Unwiped. That's the way it is.
I just want to thank Michael, Christopher, and Harry for a wonderful and unforgettable night in Chicago. Hope it was good for you, too.