You Am I Plays Spinal Tap Review @ Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2018

Published in Arts  
You Am I You Am I

The Dunstan Playhouse is a venue usually reserved for theatre and dance, but this night the stage is crowded with amp stacks and an oversized drum kit shrouded in billowing clouds of smoke.

A figure in Viking horns strides across the stage followed by a bunch of Def Leppard outcasts and what looks like a Jon English impersonator who leads them straight into an energetic rendition of 'Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight'.

It sounds great – crisp, loud and high energy, and then a message flashes on the large screen announcing that due to technical difficulties tonight’s performance has been cut short. Clearly You Am I are planning on throwing in a few gags as they play the songs of Spinal Tap, but the music is what we’re here to celebrate.

Thirty-five years after its release, 'This Is Spinal Tap' still gets a lot of love.  That’s partially because the expert skewering of large egos and life on the road still rings true and partially because the mockumentary style that it pioneered has become ubiquitous. But none of it would work if there weren’t great (and genuinely funny) songs backing it up.

As a general rule, if the word 'rock' features heavily in the title or chorus, it’s a good sign. You Am I know this, and the band throws itself into 'Majesty Of Rock', 'Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare', 'Heavy Duty' and 'Rock ‘n’ Roll Creation', the last of those featuring some gloriously over the top soloing from Davey Lane. They sound like a big metal band, look like they’re having fun on stage and it doesn’t really matter if you’re in on the joke or not – these are just fun songs.

The booming intro of 'Big Bottom' is irresistible and throughout the night, Rusty Hopkinson is lost in a forest of cymbals as he drives the band onward. Of course things don’t end well for him and there are references to the movie throughout the night but the members of You Am I are musicians rather than actors and it shows when they head into slapstick territory.

Most of the comedy is left to Tim Rogers, who unfortunately sticks to the conceit of playing it straight and referring to Spinal Tap as a real band made to look foolish by a charlatan filmmaker. That means we get overly detailed explanations of the different incarnations of the line-up (“just don’t mention the drummers”) and a journey through their parodic back catalogue.

The sunny British invasion pop of 'Gimme Some Money' is all well and good, but I could have happily skipped the avant garde-aping oddity 'Rainy Day Sun' and the twee baroque pop of 'Cups And Cakes' for another rendition of 'Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight'. Fortunately, this is one show where it’s fine to throw out the rule book; there’s room for both with a glorious reprise of 'Tonight' a reminder of what’s so great about the Tap.


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