There was a time when seeing Stephen Lynch in concert was a lot like seeing a live performance of his albums. I've seen him in some skeezy bars where the regulars were a lot more interested in a $10 bucket of Bud's than some pretty boy singer who mentions butt sex every third song. Not that they have anything against butt sex, but they don't need a pretty boy bragging he gets it more than they do.
Things have changed.
I really wasn't sure what to make of the audience there to see him at Horseshoe Casino on Friday night. Luckily, I brought a professional sociologist along for the show. She looked vastly out of place. I missed the memo stating women over size 14 were required to wear pretty, flirty dresses. Women under a size 8 had to don skintight skinny jeans and something with rhinestones. Everyone else made due with a t-shirt and a look of dejection.
I'd been warned the Casino is an All-Smoking environment, but I didn't realize that meant every bathroom stall came equipped with both ashtrays and plaques pleading that people please not use the trash as a "sharps container" and instead dispose of needles in the biohazard boxes next to the paper towels. It's an incredibly accomodating atmosphere for anyone who can't make it all the way to their car to shoot up and smoke between rounds of gambling. As someone who has never attended a concert in a casino outside Las Vegas, I must say the bathrooms alone made this experience extra special.
Lynch had the same buddies (Rod Teich and David Josefsberg) on stage with him from the last time I saw him live - but in between that show and this one, he was the lead in "The Wedding Singer" on Broadway. It shows. This time, instead of a guy with a guitar and a couple buddies it was an hour and a half long well choreographed stage act with video insets. They maintained the polite fiction that every bit of banter was a surprise (I'd seen some of the banter on YouTube, but that's okay because pirates deserve spoilers, right?) Instead of feeling like a concert, it surprisingly felt like musical theater.
I heartily approve. If you want to hear the same song over and again, put your iPod on repeat. The best concerts give you more a unique experience. In this case, that meant as much banter as music. "She's Got A Smile" lasted over 10 minutes as he and Teich meandered between conversation and singing. They kept up the illusion of three guys who just so happened to be hanging out so well that some of the drunks in the audience wanted to hang out too. A cheerful cougar draped over the second floor balcony couldn't stop waving for attention and trying to distract them. Eventually, Lynch politely looked up and said, "What...I'm sorry. Are you just talking to me? You realize I'm not a television, Right?" He can be delightfully polite for someone who sings about killing his grandfather for the inheritance money and transporting a cornucopia of drugs in his derrière. However, there aren't enough asterisk ampersands and exclamation marks to even pretend I can reprint his later response to the unsilenceable cougar - though it got the biggest round of applause from the crowd all night.
I can't help but wonder how much performing in a casino influenced his playlist. Normally, he tucks in some of his more socially concious songs, such as his ode to Jim Henson or "America." This time, it was a butt sex-stravaganza with bits of delightfully politically incorrect "Dear Diary" entries sprinkled in. He played another Horseshoe Casino the next night. I'd love to see his playlist for other casinos versus more traditional concert settings. Of course, I took a sociologist, who was happy to point out that whatever he was doing worked brilliantly, because the crowd absolutely loved him. Mind you, she also wanted me to take photos of the bathroom stalls.
If you're a fan of Stephen Lynch, try to catch him on tour. It really is a different experience from listening to his albums. If you can't make it to a show, you still have a treat in store - he has a new Comedy Central Stand Up coming out this fall.