Flight of the Conchords return to the Santa Barbara Bowl (July 05, 2016)

Paul Wellman

Flight of the Conchords return to the Santa Barbara Bowl (July 05, 2016)

Flight of the Conchords at the Bowl

New Zealand Comedy Band Mix it Up Friday, July 1

“Please don’t clap too loud for the old favorite songs,” warned Jemaine Clement (the Conchord with the fashionably dorked-out glasses), “or else it will hurt the feelings of the new songs.” A perfect example of the duo’s (which also includes Bret McKenzie) typical contradictory logic, making sense while yanking the rug out from under our literate brains: calling themselves the biggest band from New Zealand, the former HBO stars went on to play a fine mix of new songs that did not hurt or even embarrass the older ones Friday night in the bowl.

Opener Demetri Martin, who at one time threatened to be the standup laureate of the millennial generation, now seems more like a guitar-wielding un-stoned version of absurdist Steven Wright providing Zen fable one liners: Pets must be drawn from less delicious species; he has an L-shaped sofa, “It’s lowercase”; and praising the fact that flash mobs came and went so quickly as a cultural phenomenon.

The Conchords expand that sense of surrealness and add poignancy in funk or folk-tinged songs such as “Father and Son” and “Carol Brown” (“Shut up girlfriends from the past”) that explore the outer edges of self-deprecation. But others, like “Foux du Fafa” and “The Ballad of Stana,” seem more like brilliant short films.

“We like to put a lull in the evening, just to calm things down,” said Clement in one of the few betweener moments not riffed up, which was more like a chance for its avid audience to breathe. But the only real hush in the evening was their very old song “Bowie,” which isn’t exactly inappropriate now but feels thin in the wake of the grandeur and sadness of that famous man’s departure.

The best moment came when Clement began riffing on the idea of Santa Barbara’s funk zone. “I came via the funk zone, which is one of the funkiest parts of Santa Barbara, hence the name.” Did Columbus say, “Molto funky,” when he discovered it, he asked? We can only hope that someday, the answer will be turned into a Conchords song that sweetly hurts our feelings, too.

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