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Cheech & Chong Light Up The Fillmore

Of the Oakland Press

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There was a certain irony entering Cheech & Chong's early performance Saturday night (Sept. 20) at the Fillmore Detroit.

A No Smoking sign.

Say what you will about aesthetics, but this is the duo that turned smoking -- specifically pot -- into one of the most enduring comedy acts of the past 35 years. The idea that one could not light up at a Cheech & Chong show, or that drugs (specifically aspirin) were confiscated by security guards, assured us that the times had indeed changed.

Fortunately, the fact that Cheech & Chong are funny has not. For about 75-minutes, the duo delivered its stoner humor in fluid fashion, as if 25 years had not passed since its last concert tour and it had not been 21 years since they split as an act. Even without some of its biggest "hits" -- "Basketball Jones," "Sister Mary Elephant," "Dave" -- Cheech & Chong had a sold-out crowd roaring for bits that still seem audacious, if not necessarily boundary-pushing, three decades after they were first performed.

The duo did pepper some current references into the routines, such including a "bend it like (David) Beckham" nod and a few subtle jabs at the Bush administration (Tommy Chong's wife Shelby, who opened the show, was a bit more direct and strident about the latter). "Let's Make a Dope Deal," with Cheech Marin as the emcee, was a predictable hoot, while Chong's impersonation of old blues singer "Blind Melon Chillin' " was a spot-on caricature. Marin drew laughs as "The First Mexican in Space," and Shelby Chong joined her husband and Marin on all fours as dogs in "Big Sniff."

Chong played host for the evening as well, his pro-marijuana monologues certainly preaching to the converted. "We thought back in the day it would be legal by now," he noted, while he also credited pot for helping he and Marin get over their acrimonious break-up. "Pot makes you forget," Chong told the crowd. "Forgetting's good -- remember that."

He also joked that he and Marin had to go to YouTube to re-learn their bits. And though that was hardly the case, they had an audience that was certainly familiar enough to help them out, particularly with musical numbers such as "Earache My Eye" (with Marin playing the tutu-ed Alice Bowie), the Bruce Springsteen parody "Born in East L.A." and the show-closing anthem "Up in Smoke."

And, for those who were wondering, a hint of herb smoke was definitely in the air, despite the signs. Perhaps times have not changed that much after all.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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