Jarrod Fairclough – Live Muppet events are always risky. At the Montreal Just For Laughs Gala a few years ago there were lip syncing issues and heads galore. Which is to be expected, of course, as a live event has far less preparation and more unexpected issues. But you wouldn’t think that watching The Electric Mayhem’s first (and only) live concert yesterday at Outside Lands! The show went off without a hitch, and because we love you, you can watch the entire thing below!
Opening with their most famous song, ‘Can You Picture That’, the band took to the stage to a thunderous audience, all ecstatic to be there. Initially I had some concerns that the songs were going to be lip synced to pre-recorded tracks, but like a true music concert Bill Barretta (Dr Teeth), Matt Vogel (Floyd), Eric Jacobson (Animal) and David Rudman (Janice) all sang live, aided by Steve Whitmire (Lips) and Dave Goelz (Zoot). I loved the spin these guys put on the song, making it sound fresh again after all these years.
After some banter and Floyd calling out two people for ‘feeling the love’ a little too much, they segued in to ‘San Francisco’ by The Mowgli’s. This was the only song I felt while watching the live stream may have been pre-recorded, although upon another listen it might just be that the guys were in great form yesterday. The new generation of Muppet performers are arguably better singers than their predecessors (although I’d put Matt Vogel and Jerry Nelson on even ground) and they harmonize in a way the older crew might not have. This song just felt more ‘Bandy’ than ‘Muppety’, and I mean that in a good way.
Obviously spending 25 minutes with your arm in the air is near impossible, so the Muppet performers took two chances to rest throughout the gig. The first was filled with a hilarious short video of the band as they made their way through San Francisco in the Electric Mayhem Bus, arguing with a GPS after changing her voice to different accents. They try different music, and do the classic Wayne’s World head bang during Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’… Or was it their own version of the song. Animal makes a camp fire, and they end up parking in a place they probably shouldn’t…
They reemerged with ‘Home’ by Edward Sharp & The Magnetic Zeroes, which has become an incredibly popular song for artists to cover over the past 7 years. I’m not just saying this because I’m a Muppet fan and I want these guys to like me, but this was genuinely a gorgeous rendition of the song, and one of the best I think I’ve ever heard, only amplified by the audience singing along. They took a moment partway to thank the guy who discovered them and gave them their big break – Kermit. It was a sweet moment, and I can’t help but think they were actually thanking Jim.
The band started singing ‘Ophelia’, which is the name of one of Dr Teeth’s ladies. But not before they went through a list of all his other ladies. Fun fact – all of the women mentioned were the wives of the Muppet performers; Caren (Rudman), Kelly (Vogel), Debbie (Goelz), Melissa (Whitmire), Mary (Jacobson) and Cristina (Barretta). I took the time during this song to marvel at the puppetry going on. The characters were full bodied (aside from Dr Teeth & Animal), rather than hidden from the waist down so that the band looked as if they were actually standing on the stage, with the performers wearing all black. A photo from the event later showed the amount of puppeteers used for the gig, and if you watch this segment you can see how every single one of them was necessary. From Janice’s guitar solo, to Lips literally walking across the stage. They’re the best of the bunch.
Arm break 2 came after this, with a video showing the band wondering just how they met in the first place. They can only agree that it was in San Francisco (leading to a lot of local references) because their memories are fuzzy because they’re always happy legally now (Remember that gag? #RenewTheMuppets). But then they remember that San Francisco has always been a home full of love, sea lions and rice. And if that isn’t the sweetest thing you’ll hear all day, I… Well, I wouldn’t be surprised. The Electric Mayhem, and really the entire Muppet community, love us fans. They really do, I can’t stress it enough. That’s why they do these sorts of fun things – For us! And we love them for it.
The band came back for their final number, joined now by a choir donned in green and black gowns. For the second time in their career, they performed The Beatles’ hit, ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. Though their original version was a lot campier, a lot more ‘Muppety’ if you will, this one was much more true to the type of band The Electric Mayhem are. It was a spectacle, it was loud, and it was amazing. The band are first and foremost all about rock, and getting to see them in their element was just fantastic. No other Muppets turned up to take any spotlight, and it’s startling to think that side characters from a 45 year old franchise can still be as relevant and captivating today.
I’ve no idea what Disney plan to do with this set now it’s been completed. While I’d love to see it, I can’t imagine a live album is coming any time soon, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the footage used as a special feature on the DVD of The Muppets, which I assume is coming at some point. Until then though, click that video above and enjoy those who am, is, are and be, they whom are known as, The Electric Mayhem.