Sunday, April 25, 2010

10 Questions for Neil Innes

The last time I saw Neil Innes was with Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl and he showed the audience his butt after singing Sit on my Face and Tell Me That You Love Me, so I wasn't expecting reverence when I bopped to see him at The Triple Door, an incredibly beautiful refurbished burlesque house blocks from the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. I'm not saying you have to be drunk to see a show there, just that happy hour should legally have to precede every concert in America.

I'm happy to report that seeing Neil Innes live is a joyous experience. Whether you know his work or not - and if you don't, what the hell's the matter with you - his warmth and humor are sure to win you over. What's overwhelming about seeing Neil Innes in concert isn't just the astounding catalogue of entertaining material, his mastery of parody, and the toe-tapping rhythms of the classic songs. It's not just the jokes and stories from his extraordinary career or the simple pleasure of seeing that guy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail sing "He was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp. Or to have his eyes gouged out and his elbows broken. To have his kneecaps split and his body burned away and his limbs all hacked and mangled, Brave Sir Robin." All of that I was expecting.

What surprised me, what you rarely learn from simply seeing someone in concert, is the basic core of decency that shines through everything Neil Innes does, a philosophy that somehow makes none of the jabs nasty at all but a plea from the heart for compassion toward your fellow man. I came to be enthralled by the entertainer and left in admiration of the human being. When he sings "Old Age Becomes Me," you'll think Damn right.

He placates his rabid fans with ancient music hall songs, highlights from The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and the Rutles (WARNING: if you listen to the Rutles' Archeology before hearing the Beatles, you will never, ever, be able to figure out who was making fun of who), but it's mainly the new material that rocks. At various times you will be reminded of Randy Newman, John Prine, the Beatles, the Kinks, XTC, Elton John, and Tom Lehrer, a rockin' sorta heartfelt folkie political activist with a PhD level sense of humor.

I love seeing Mick Jagger in concert but I'm not really sure I like the guy. He seems like sort of a dick. Though their music is diametrically different, the vibe off Neil Innes is more like that of Bruce Springsteen. You don't just love the music. You love the humble sincerity. I liked him so much that now I feel bad for all the cheap laughs I got at his expense in the above video.

At one point, after moving from the guitar to the piano, he noticed the guitar stand was blocking my view and he got up to move it, just for me. How can you not love a performer who does that? Go out and see him if he's anywhere near. Maybe he'll move a prop for YOU.