Event Reviews

Spinal Tap

with The Folksmen

The Beacon Theater, New York City, NY • July 16, 2001

One of the wide-awake nightmares I experience is the one where I’ve missed a big show. I’m sure you, yes you, gentle reader, know it well; it’s right up there with the grad student’s nightmare of the class you forgot to attend all term and now it’s final exam time. Yes• Well, it almost happened this time, and even though I didn’t miss it, I’m having retro-mares about people coming up to me and asking if I saw ‘Tap the other night. I mean, I’d purposely missed their June 4th performance at Carnegie Hall as “that just wasn’t my scene.” The Beacon, on the other hand, I can make a scene at. Frankly, there was a lot against me, even knowing about this show. I found out about it from a chance perusal of The Village Voice and saw the announcement at the bottom page of the Irving Plaza ad. Strange, it’s at The Beacon Theater, where there’s seats. I don’t read The Voice much at all, except for Nat Hentoff, and his columns have been online for ages. Secondly, the show was advertised as being “presented” by O & A. That would be Opie and Anthony, the most odious “thing” to happen to radio since, since• Man, they’re awful. They “founded” the “W.O.W.” phenomenon. “What’s W.O.W.,” you ask? Well if you don’t know, fool! It’s too late: “W.O.W.” stands for “Whip ‘em Out Whenever.” That is, “girls, flash your breasts for us.” Spinal Tap, and true (even if it is fake – fake, not false, there’s a difference) metal, has always appealed to intellectuals. Sure, I like to see tits, but I don’t like to have my hobby heralded by unskilled grammar school dropouts who’ve managed to con someone out of an astronomical salary. Besides, when these women flash their ta-tas at the sight of a “W.O.W.” bumper sticker or T-shirt – and apparently, some actually have – am I to take that as an invitation to go further? Does it mean she likes me? Besides, O & A don’t play music, they spew idiocy on the commercial airwaves during afternoon drive time. End of long story, I don’t listen to those clowns, so I had no way of knowing about the show as far as broadcast media went. And for some reason, the Spinal Tap e-mail list didn’t make it to me this time (maybe I didn’t read carefully enough?).

Anyway, the bottom line is that I nabbed a great ticket (not a sold-out show) and had a blast. Spinal Tap is an important band in the David Lee Beowulf universe for a variety of reasons: a) the film This is Spinal Tap is the closest an American film has ever come to producing (I think exceeding or at least equaling) a Monty Python-esque film. b) the music is surprisingly ass kicking true metal, clearly the Tap-dudes are well-versed in the riffs of Iommi, Blackmore, Tipton, et al. c) the name of my heavy metal radio show was Brainhammer, after one of Spinal Tap’s albums. And if that’s not enough, it’s great entertainment – the show, that is. They have props and interesting between-song banter and babes, too.

The show started at eight PM on the dot with a rousing set by underground folk legends, The Folksmen. Apparently they were scheduled to open a show for Spinal Tap in 1962 and something went wrong• At any rate, this well-matched and dressed trio was here tonight and hammered-out a couple of folk standards (er, Folksmen standards) before performing a single song that set the pace for the evening. That would be a folk version of The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.” It’s a good thing I’d hit the bathroom before the show, otherwise I’d have wet myself. Their set was cut short, right in the middle of a story that began to have relevance. I think they were secretly ordered off the stage. Had they not left the stage, we’d never see Spinal Tap, I feared. The show was sponsored by Endure, a brand of diaper marketed to rock concertgoers. The idea is that you’ll not miss any part of a show if you never leave your seat – especially if you have to use a bathroom. You don’t! Just wear Endure and fell free to…

Hey! The lights went down! Let’s boogie!

Nigel, David and Derrick took the stage by storm and immediately rocked out with “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You (Tonight).” The band looked good. Frontman David St. Hubbins sported a new, fuller, poodle-ier hairstyle and looked well fed, and by gosh, could’ve been The Folksmen’s frontman’s cousin or twin. Who knows? Bassist Derrick Smalls looked equally good and sported tight, leopard skin trousers. Guitarist Nigel Tufnel has aged the least, and looks as though he stepped right out of 1982. The rest of the band was rounded-out thus: Skippy Skuffelton on drums, certainly a brave soul, knowing the history of Spinal Tap drummers. Caucasian Jeffrey Vanston on keyboards and some girl named Cyndi on backing vocals (“she’s someone backstage’s girlfriend,” said Derrick).

After a bit of stage banter regarding being a millionaire, the band thrashed out “Cash On Delivery,” a very rocking song about paying for something when it’s delivered through the mail rather than sending a check ahead with your order form. Next was “Hell Hole,” the first, in this writer’s opinion, true heavy metal song of the night, and their best video.

According to David St. Hubbins.

After “Hell Hole,” they blasted out “Back From the Dead,” a very modern techno-metal song the band’s been hawking on their “Tapster” Web site. Tapster, as you may know, was the Web-based music downloading service that allowed a user to download an MP3 file. Unfortunately, David St. Hubbins mentioned, “they shut down Tapster out of force of habit.”

Then they cranked out “Rainy Day Sun,” followed by a strange jazz interlude that led right into “Heavy Duty,” the most headbangingist Tap tune ever. What’s there not to love about a lyric like “•I just want to make some eardrums bleed!”? This was followed by the strange, ethereal “Clam Caravan,” a bit of surf metal that Nigel mentioned, “it’s really called ‘Calm Caravan,’ but someone at the record company transposed the letters.” At any rate, it’s a haunting tune that proves Spinal Tap’s amazing musical range, although Nigel’s digeridoo solo is best characterized as “retarded.” Good thing I was wearing my Endures, because I really needed them during that instant.

Things really got interesting when The Squatney (in England, where the band first met) Horns were introduced. The Tap horn section consisted of a shapely lass on saxophone, and an unshapely fellow on trumpet and another one on trombone. “What could this be?,” I wondered. David St. Hubbins introduced the song as “an old favorite done differently…” I’ll say, everyone in the crowd was blown about by this wild funk version of “Sex Farm.” It was nothing short of amazing! A great metal song becomes a great funk song! I can imagine Rick James covering it soon.

Sanity returned, though, when it was announced that it was time for a history lesson• Yes! It was time for them to perform “Stonehenge”! And oh, how they danced… That would be the “little people” and the miniature, Endure-wearing (think about it…) Stonehenge monument that was lowered onto the stage… Though I think the band was used to it, as David and Derrick joined the two dwarves in the dance.

Then came anthemic “The Majesty of Rock” and “Stinking Up the Great Outdoors” and another awesome bit of Tap True Metal, “Rock and Roll Creation.” Of course, the place was going insane, so they calmed things down with “(Listen To the ) Flower People,” with Nigel’s patented double-guitar solo, including several bars of “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Naturally, they followed with “Christmas With the Devil.”

It was then time for a love song, introduced by Derrick wondering out loud why MTV never played their video for the song• That would be “Bitch School.” They finished up the evening with “Break Like the Wind,” which quickly deteriorated into a hysterical free form retarded noise jam featuring Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, Allman Bros.) on guest guitar.


That’s not enough.

The crowd needed, nay, demanded more.

And we got a whole lot more.

The encore started out with a rollicking rendition of “All the Way Home” featuring Nashville session man Dave Nicton on guest guitar, followed by “Short & Sweet” featuring Dave Nicton and John McEnroe on guitars. Yes, that John McEnroe.

Finally, and the night couldn’t end without this one, they brought out even more guests, like Will Lee on guest bass and Alan Johnston on guest bass tuba – and with Derrick on bass, David on bass, Nigel on lead bass, Skippy on bass drums, and Jeff on bass synthesizer – along with The Squatney Horns and the girls of the Joffrey Ballet (according to Derrick) – that would be a bevy of buxom bbw ladies (?) they all jammed out to “Big Bottom,” the tribute to large-derriered babes.

Thusly, a great summer Monday night ended and I slept a nightmare-less sleep, happy in the fact that I did not miss this show of the year. ◼

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