The Nellie McKay Show, With Audience Participation

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nellie McKay's concerts always include hilarity, and the singer-provocateur's concert at the Birchmere on Tuesday was no exception. There were buckets of comedic moments to go along with 2 1/2 hours of McKay's ultra-witty, Broadway-punk-jazz piano ditties.

NPR was recording and streaming the concert on its Web site, so McKay treated the concert like an old-time radio show. She injected several interludes in which she adopted the nasal voice of a 1940s announcer, telling silly news stories and introducing upcoming entertainment events such as the "Liberace Showtime Hour."

She even held up signs for laughter and applause -- not that either was necessary. The crowd was in love with McKay, especially after she urged someone in the audience to go out and crack the window of his van so the dogs inside wouldn't fry. Several songs later a woman stood up to defend the dog owner, but when McKay wouldn't back down, she and the pooches' pops left the concert in a huff. McKay, not missing a beat, went right into "The Dog Song."

McKay also charmingly messed up several of her songs, which is a common occurrence at her concerts. But McKay's mistakes on "The Big One" led into one of the concert's most laugh-inducing segments. A preteen boy in the audience requested the tune, which McKay obliged until she couldn't remember any more of it. She told the boy he'd have to sing it -- so the precocious kid jumped onstage.

While he didn't know the lyrics to "The Big One" either, he proceeded to tell jokes, bust a guy in the audience with a camera and plug his blog. Then a teenager joined the boy onstage for an interpretive dance as McKay played "David," looking back at her young fans and smiling like mad at the wackiness surrounding her.

-- Christopher Porter

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