Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pretend musicians create real entertainment at Borgata

Comic actors Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer collectively have been getting laughs by pretending to be musicians since their first musical "mockumentary," "This Is Spinal Tap," was released 25 years ago. But the real joke is that these guys are good enough singers and instrumentalists to actually have had successful careers in the music industry.

Pretend musicians create real entertainment at Borgata

Comic actors Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer collectively have been getting laughs by pretending to be musicians since their first musical "mockumentary," "This Is Spinal Tap," was released 25 years ago.  But the real joke is that these guys are good enough singers and instrumentalists to actually have had successful careers in the music industry.

That's the takeway from the trio's wildly entertaining Sunday night set at Borgata's Music Box theater.

The team's "Unwigged and Unplugged" moniker for its current tour is a little bit of a misnomer, as McKean and Guest (on acoustic guitars and, in the latter's case, mandolin) and Shearer (bass guitar and "big" bass) were amplified throughout the two-hour set, as were the keyboards of C.J. Vance. But that is just nitpicking, as the show was a two-hour romp through the music the guys wrote and performed for "Spinal Tap" and "Mighty Wind."

Whether on the acoustic tunes by faux Brit headbangers Spinal Tap, or the equally make-believe early-'60s folk of the aptly named Folksmen (from "Wind"), the three stars proved to be incredibly gifted musicians, pickin; grinnin' and singin' with the best of them.

And while all of the program's 24 originals were written as parodies of various genres, the fact is that they all had enough lyrical intelligence, sharp playing (especially Shearer's sophisticated bass lines) and strong vocalizing to identify the three as top-notch musicians.

Among the many highlights were the Folksmen's Appalachian tragedy ballad, "Blood On the Coal" and the sing-songy "Old Joe's Place" as well as such "Spinal Tap" selections as  "The Majesty of Rock" and the "controversial" "Sex Farm."

There was also a heaping helping of comedy--scripted and ad libbed--which exponentially increased the show's entertainment quotient and put the finishing touches on a great evening of song and laughs.

Chuck Darrow
About this blog
Philly native Chuck Darrow has literally covered Atlantic City’s casino scene since Day One: He was there on assignment the night in November 1976 when voters approved legalized casinos.

Since then, Chuck has covered the town and its gaming industry for several area newspapers -- which is why, in some circles, he’s known as “Boardwalk Charlie.”

You can reach Chuck at darrowc@phillynews.com. Reach Chuck at darrowc@phillynews.com.

Chuck Darrow