New Zealand natives Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement–better known as Flight Of The Conchords–developed a cult following after their BBC radio series was turned into a TV show in 2007 by HBO, showcasing their unassuming yet hilarious blend of music and comedy. The series (also called Flight of the Conchords) ran for two seasons and was nominated for several Emmys, in both songwriting and overall comedic categories. After a relatively quiet few years, the group returned this year, announcing an extensive summer tour—their first U.S. shows since 2013. 

Last night, the hilarious duo brought their reunion tour to Forest Hills Staduim in Queens, NY. After opening stand-up comedy sets from Demitri Martin, Eugene Mirman, and John Hodgman, Flight of the Conchords took the stage in their best white tennis gear, a nod to the venue’s past life as the home of the US Open and the Davis Cup. Their relatively simple stage setup served them well, as two screens on either side of the stage helped to capture the performers’ comedic nuance throughout the night while colored spotlights gave their songs that familiar outdoor concert feel.

Known as much for their hilarious live shows as their TV stint, Clement and McKenzie settled into the show with ease, their disarming rapport and between-song banter as funny and entertaining as the songs themselves. The duo, joined by accompanying cellist Nigel Collins, commanded the crowd from the get-go, interacting with the audience and ad-libbing jokes throughout, from responding to the crowd’s ironic enthusiasm for the silent Collins by attempting to write a song about him onstage to riffing on the show’s locale (“You’re so beautiful, like Queens–I’m not just talkin’ about transvestites, I’m talkin’ about the place”). 

Though comedy was at the forefront of the performance, it’s worth noting that Flight of the Conchords are no slouches when it comes to musicianship, utilizing various guitars and basses, a piano, box drums, mini harps and harp synths, and even recorders (yes, the ones you played in fourth grade music class). The group also showcased their adept playing by taking on a string of different sonic styles throughout the evening, from smoky jazz (“Shady Rachel”) to Johnny Cash-style country (“The Ballad Of Stana”) to futuristic robot music (“The Humans Are Dead”), to a medieval ballad (“Summer of 1353 (Woo A Lady)”). The group even invited fellow New Zealand singer Kimbra to help Bret embody a choir of ex-girlfriends on “Carol Brown”. 

In one particularly satisfying musical transformation, the band closed their main set with a performance of “Bowie’s In Space”, a fan favorite that mimics different stages of the ever-evolving late David Bowie’s career. The song borrows lyrically from “Changes” and “Life On Mars?” and imitates the musical style of Bowie classics like “Space Oddity”, “John, I’m Only Dancing”, and “Sound And Vision”. Check out this hilarious video of Bret and Jemaine riffing on this “stages of Bowie” theme from their HBO series below via YouTube user MrJuniorMovies:

Finally, after joking about how they were going to pretend to play their last songs, leave the stage, and then come back and play a couple more “because we’re so rock n’ roll,” the band played a three-song encore featuring new tune “Seagull” (in which Bret sings a song laden with pretty metaphors that are then translated literally by Jemaine, to hilarious effect), hip-hop send-up “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros” and “Summer of 1353”, which featured a “flute jam” that saw all three opening comedians join the group onstage to round out the show.

Flight Of The Conchords will remain on the road for the rest of this month, including a sold-out performance at Central Park SummerStage this Sunday, July 24th. Check out last night’s setlist, below.

[Photos appear courtesy of Mark Dershowitz]