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Flight of the Conchords delivers music and lowbrow humor at Starlight Theatre

Jermaine Clement (left) and Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords performed Thursday at Starlight Theatre.
Jermaine Clement (left) and Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords performed Thursday at Starlight Theatre. Special to the Star

In the preamble to their show Thursday night at Starlight Theatre, Flight of the Conchords, who comprise native New Zealanders Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, delivered their biography.

They portrayed themselves as a two-man band that came together when their one-man bands were booked at the same club on the same night and the two discovered they had a couple of things in common: They were both one-man bands, and they both knew the same guitar chord.

Thus was born one of New Zealand’s best-known and mythical supergroups, one that became famous internationally when HBO turned its music-comedy shtick into a popular TV series for two seasons starting in 2007.

The TV show developed a passionate following that breached cult status.

Thursday’s show drew more than 6,000 near-delirious fans on a night when another comedy hero, Louis C.K., drew a big crowd to the Sprint Center.

Laughter was in demand, apparently.

Flight of the Conchords dabbles unrepentantly in farce and droll, dry-witted, deadpan humor. Some of it has the sophistication that barely cracks the ninth-grade locker-room level. The f-word was used liberally. There were many penis references. Sex was alluded to implicitly and explicitly.

For example, “Business Time” was a greasy, funky, Barry White-like ballad about the ritual of getting ready to do “it” — brushing your teeth counts as foreplay — and then doing it, quickly, with your socks on. Then there was “(Blanking) on the Ceiling,” which was self-explanatory.

Early on, they issued some rules and regulations.

One of them was no videos, which was explained by Clement, to paraphrase: It’s like we tell our sex partners. Stop taking videos. This is about the live experience.

The two have developed the rapport and telepathy of seasoned jazz musicians. Some of their best material is improvised on the spot, the result of two comedians who anticipate each other’s moves and are ready to respond with either a setup line or a funnier rejoinder.

The heat and humidity was a recurring theme, and their “sweaty fingers” were mentioned throughout the show.

“I thought my bass was sweating,” McKenzie said, “but it was my fingers.”

They opened with a song called “Chips and Dips (Rock the Party),” a sophomoric rap-rock number about party rules: No shoes (it’s a brand-new carpet), use a coaster and reuse your glass (don’t keep getting a new one).

Before the next number, they introduced two new instruments they’ve added to their shows: a vibraslap and chimes, which were employed to evoke a sense of reminiscing and nostalgia.

“Father and Son” was the second number, but before singing it, they set up a visual gag. The video image of McKenzie, who played the son, was reduced to make him appear significantly smaller than Clement, who played the father. The song turned into a brutally candid expose on their relationship, in which the son keeps reminding his father that his mother wasn’t dead — she’d left him for another man.

Some of the routines between songs were funnier than the songs.

Their understated rock-star stories were another recurring theme. Clement described one as a “bathrobe” tale: During his one-night stay in a Kansas City hotel Wednesday night, he used both bathrobes left to his disposal, not just one — his way of “trashing” his room.

“Hashtag rockstar,” he deadpanned.

And so the night went. The new songs drew plenty of laughter and applause, but the older material prompted uproars, like “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room,” a halfhearted paean to a pretty lady: “You’re so beautiful / You could be a waitress … Cause you’re beautiful / Like a tree.”

Other highlights included “The Ballad of Stana,” a mini-epic with a spaghetti Western vibe (the vibraslap was heavily employed) about an anti-hero who didn’t wear pants and who took Viagra and … (you had to be there).

Clement introduced that as “ the strangest story you’ve ever heard, unless you can’t hear, and then it’ll be the strangest story you’ve ever lip-read.”

Another was “The Seagull,” in which McKenzie sang the idyllic verses, rife with New Age metaphors about birds and flight, and Clement translated them earnestly until he realizes that the song is really about a wacko guy who thinks he’s a seagull who can sing and play piano. During that song, McKenzie hit a few clams on the piano, unintentionally, but it only added to the levity.

They ended the first set with “Bowie,” in which both evoked the sound and spirit of David Bowie.

It’s one of the duo’s best-known songs, but six months after Bowie’s death, it felt more like a tongue-in-cheek homage than a slice of good-natured satire.

The encore included “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros,” a satirical pseudo-braggadocio rap-rock anthem with lines like “My beats are fat and the birds are on my back / And I’m horny.”

Like much of the 100-minute performance, it was another moment of lowbrow humor that elicited plenty of chuckles and laughs, and Lord knows we can use more of those these days.

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