Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean have made plenty of music together. Just not as themselves.
The trio are the creative team behind the heavy metal satire band Spinal Tap, whose career has lasted beyond the 1984 "mocumentary" "This is Spinal Tap," and the Folksmen from Guest's 2003 film "A Mighty Wind." But on their current Unwigged & Unplugged tour, they're playing the songs as themselves, using mostly acoustic instruments and recasting several of the songs from those movies.
"We're not big fans of repeating ourselves," says Shearer, 65, whose many other endeavors include two stints on "Saturday Night Live," voicing characters on "The Simpsons" and an upcoming comedy album of his own. "We've done this (type of performance) a couple of times, and people had seemed to enjoy it. So it was in the back of our minds, 'Well, one of these days we'll do more of that.'
"It's interesting; after playing characters all these years, we're having meetings trying to figure out who WE are...We have to ask ourselves, 'What would WE do?' Just because we were writing funny songs doesn't mean we were trying to write [i]bad[/i] songs, so musically they're fun to play and they do, as it turns out, lend themselves to different interpretations."
Shearer says a full-scale Spinal Tap tour was considered to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the film, but that idea was abandoned because "one, we've done it before, and two, in terms of the state of the economy it's not the right time to be going around with three (trucks) worth of stage stuff and charging people 75 bucks to see us be Spinal Tap."
Instead, then, they're getting stripped-down and revised versions of those Spinal Tap songs -- including the derriere homage "Big Bottom," which has a new, jazzy arrangement with Shearer playing upright bass.
But Spinal Tap's anniversary is not going unnoticed. Shearer, Guest and McKean have recorded a new Tap album, "Back From the Dead," which includes studio versions of the songs Spinal Tap performed in the film's concert sequences, as well as some new material and a DVD. Guests on the album include Def Leppard's Phil Collen, John Mayer and Steve Vai -- playing on the guitar opus "Short and Sweet" -- which, in true Tap fashion, is not -- and keyboardist Keith Emerson.
Spinal Tap will play a "one night world tour" on June 30 at Wembley Arena in London, but the three actor/musicians have other projects that will prevent them from doing much else in that guise.
"What's amazing is that when it's taken from the standpoint of the movie, the life of the group is now, in the real world, is longer than the life of the group in the movie," Shearer notes. "So the real life has exceeded the fictional life. That's kind of goofy -- but we're not complaining."
Unwigged & Unplugged: An Evening with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer takes place at 8 p.m. Friday (May 29) at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $55, $42.50 and $32.50. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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