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A Fine Line Between Clever and Stupid

October 08, 2000|MARK EHRMAN

The occasion: The "premiere" (actually, a party for the theatrical re-release and the DVD release) for the 1984 movie "This Is Spinal Tap" at the Egyptian Theater, with an after-party and concert at the House of Blues.

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Behind the music: "People were asking me, 'How does this compare to the first premiere of "Spinal Tap"? ' It compares in that there was no first premiere," says director Rob Reiner (a.k.a. Marty DiBergi) in a prescreening speech about his psuedorockumentary. At the time, its humor proved too deadpan for many audiences. "Sixteen years later," Reiner says, "people are finally getting it." The event reunites the three original members, Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, respectively, although like KISS, they won't break character), accompanied by--what do you know?--a new drummer. Few look closely enough at the opening act, a folk-acoustic trio called "The Journeymen," to notice how much they resemble Spinal Tap, the group the British press supposedly once lauded as "the loudest band on earth." The crowd is up and cheering, though, for the actual Spinal Tap set (yes, the boys do play their instruments), delivered at a deafening 11 volume. Hard-core fans scream maniacally as an 18-inch monolith is lowered during the song "Stonehenge." How does a band keep its edge decade after decade? "It's like those knives they sell that are serrated," explains bassist Smalls. "You never need to sharpen them. We're serrated. We don't have to keep it sharp. It keeps itself sharp."

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I'm with the band: "I was into them way back at the 'Shark Sandwich' LP," says Weird Al Yankovic in the crush of bodies just below the stage. "Their '90s stuff rocks, but it doesn't compare to the 'Shark Sandwich'-era material." Sharon Lawrence remembers the lads from her real-life college days. "I went to UNC Chapel Hill and they played the film there because they actually did one of the scenes there--the bad food and the sandwiches. I just fell in love with it." Many are amazed to see the band pop up after such a long hiatus. "Yeah, but you know what? There are certain skin conditions that are like that too," responds guitarist St. Hubbins. "You think they're gone and all of a sudden, 'Hello! Bit of a lump.' We're sort of like that."

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WHAT'S THE SCORE?

CELEB QUOTIENT: The band and cast member Fran Drescher, plus David Schwimmer, Jamie Lee Curtis and a number of stars from the "Where Are They Now?" category.

WOW FACTOR: Best live Tap performance since that festival on the Isle of Lucy.

CHOW LINE: Standard House of Blues fare: barbecue chicken, rice, salad and bread slices big enough for Tufnel to make a proper sandwich.

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