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Spinal Tap Break Out Classics on "Unwigged & Unplugged" Tour

April 24, 2009 10:12 AM ET

The men of Spinal Tap went costume-free last night at Southern California's Grove of Anaheim, but Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer had no trouble getting into character: Singing Tap classics as well as material from A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman, the trio offered pitch-perfect parodies of arena-rock excess and folk-revival earnestness on the fifth date of its Unwigged & Unplugged tour, which wraps up May 31st in Milwaukee (shortly before the release this summer of a new Spinal Tap album, Back from the Dead).

The two-hour set alternated songs with brief multimedia bits, such as a clip from Spinal Tap's first television appearance (on 1979's The T.V. Show) and a run-down of the edits that NBC's Standards & Practices department required before the network would air This Is Spinal Tap. ("Shit sandwich" you can understand, but "twisted old fruit"?) Musical highlights included a didgeridoo-enhanced "Clam Caravan"; "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," for which keyboardist CJ Vanston and McKean's wife Annette O'Toole joined the proceedings; a bluegrass rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up"; and "Majesty of Rock," introduced not inaccurately by McKean as "a genuine specimen of the rock & roll anthem." Only "Stonehenge" fell flat, its joke about downsizing done in by the intimate scale of the show.

During a Q&A session one fan asked if the actors might consider next satirizing the wacky renaissance-faire scene, but Shearer admitted that they'd already been beaten to the punch by the folks at FreeCreditReport.com. "Some things just parody themselves," McKean added. "I mean, how could you make a movie about Dancing with the Stars?"

Set list:
"The Colors of My Life"
"Hell Hole"
"Never Did No Wanderin' "
"Clam Caravan"
"Bitch School"
"Loco Man"
"This Bulging River"
"All the Way Home"
"Blood on the Coal"
"(Listen to the) Flower People"
"Corn Wine"
"The Majesty of Rock"
"Stonehenge"
"Start Me Up"
"Cups and Cakes"
"Old Joe's Place"
"Big Bottom"
"The Good Book Song"
"A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow"
"Rainy Day Sun"
"Sex Farm"
"Gimme Some Money"
"A Mighty Wind"
"The Colors of My Life"

Related Stories:

Behind the Wigs: The Return of Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap Rockers Announce "Unwigged & Unplugged" Tour, New Album

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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