Review: ‘Spinal Tap’

The grandeur, the spectacle, the volume. Is it any wonder this legendary band's new single is titled "The Majesty of Rock?" They are Spinal Tap.

The grandeur, the spectacle, the volume. Is it any wonder this legendary band’s new single is titled “The Majesty of Rock?” They are Spinal Tap.

All right, enough of the bogus platitudes. As any rock fan of even the slightest consciousness knows, Spinal Tap is the fictional rock group that was the subject of rock’s funniest film, the parody rockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap.” But now they have become a real, albeit parodic, metal act.

Touring to promotetheir second album and first MCA disc, “Break Like the Wind” (discounting the fictional ones mentioned in the film, like “Shark Sandwich”), Spinal Tap is utterly hilarious, employing every conceivable rock cliche to the max.

As the curtain came up on the band’s opening number, “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight,” lead singer David St. Hubbins (played by Michael McKean), lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) descended from the ceiling–but, of course, Smalls and Tufnel didn’t make it all the way to the ground.

The band opened the second half of the show with the group breaking out of pods as they did in the movie, but updating the sight gag where the pod doesn’t open, a chicken popped out instead of Smalls/Shearer.

Part of Spinal Tap’s legend is that of its dying drummers (the group has had about eight, two of whom have exploded onstage). Life imitated art at the Universal, as prior to the set, Shrimpton fractured an ankle backstage. Like a trouper, he played anyway.

Other highlights included a fake duet with a videotaped Cher (she is featured on “Break Like the Wind”) in which the singer is shown lip-syncing on film to the song, and an acoustic set that showed off the band’s genuinely talented three-part harmonies.

The latter may be part of the band’s dilemma. As a joke, they’re fantastic, but as a real metal band, they can actually play and sing better than 95% of the Sunset Strip posers who laugh at their antics. Truth is stranger than fiction in this band’s case.

Spinal Tap

(Universal Amphitheatre; 6,200 capacity; $ 21 top)


Presented by the Universal Amphitheatre. Spinal Tap: Derek Smalls, David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, Rick Shrimpton and Caucasian Jeff Vanston.
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