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Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer @ The Grove 4/23/09

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In his “business casual” getup, Michael McKean, the writer and actor who portrays the character Derek St. Hubbins in the film This Is Spinal Tap, looks like he could have stepped out of a regional managers convention, until he opens his mouth. He’s onstage with his legs spread wide, his head tilted to the sky, strumming an acoustic guitar and intoning about “the majesty of rock and the pageantry of roll, the crowing of the cock, the running of the foal!” It’s all so deliberately goofy, and yet McKean’s performance is so stirring, it comes off as positively heartfelt.

Professional satirists though they may be, these guys aren’t entirely kidding.

As the members of Spinal Tap, Guest, McKean and Shearer straddle the line between “fake band” and “real band” like no other since the Monkees. Of course they’re an invention, with a made-up back story, but they’re also the creators of a truly excellent album, and have earned a following as a musical entity in their own right. Real-life Tap tours have been performed totally in character, using their ridiculous British accents for the between-song banter, and making use of semi-functional stage props just as you’d expect. They’ve also done appearances as The Folksmen, the Kingston Trio-esque group at the center of A Mighty Wind, including a stint as Tap’s opening act. But for this outing, the Unplugged and Unwigged Tour, they’ve taken it down a few notches by appearing in their civvies and their natural hair, getting rid of all the props, even ditching the rhythm section and the amplifiers.